Dr. Gary G. Taylor
Is there value in serving even on a missionary's worst day Ever?
Problem: Elder Jackson had recently experienced several days of appointments falling through, constant rejection, reluctant members, mission inefficiencies, and an unmotivated companion. All of this led him to feel like his mission was a waste of time. He often thought that he could have done more good if he had stayed home. His motivation to serve and enjoyment of his mission were at an all-time low and he desperately wanted to go home; which was especially troubling since he had over a year remaining to serve.
Points to Consider: Most missionaries will share Elder Jackson’s experience at some point during their service; and will be tempted to think and feel as he did. At those times, it can be very helpful to see the big picture. What is this world meant to accomplish? How does missionary service fit into the big picture? What really matters? Following are six reasons why missionary service has value even when it appears that very little, if anything, is being accomplished.
1. There may be a positive outcome that can’t be seen. With our limited perception, we simply can’t see the end of the story. Many missionaries have assumed that nothing was accomplished on any given day; when in fact, they had touched someone for good in a way that they will never be able to realize.
2. The Lord values effort and intent even when results are minimal. Joseph Smith once said, “if you do your duty, it will be just as well with you as if all men embraced the gospel” (Joseph Smith, Letter to the Church, not after 18 December, 1933, Joseph Smith Papers, ID 1458). At the end of the day, doing ones’ duty is what really counts with the Lord, not blowing away “the competition” by having a high number of lessons and baptisms each week.
3. Being obedient and serving faithfully when results are meagre proves you are not a “fair weather” disciple. It’s easy to be upbeat and feel great about yourself and the work you are doing when things are going well. It’s not so easy to maintain a positive attitude and effort when there are no obvious results from the hard work. Knowing this, the Lord is likely to appreciate our diligence and commitment even more when we persevere through adversity. For one thing, our doing so is a statement of strong character. It shows us to be the kind of person that He can count on no matter what. That will certainly be one of the important conditions on our eventually receiving all of the blessings He has in mind for us (D&C 84:38). Our faithfulness through adversity is also a strong statement of love and support. When we do the right thing, even when there is no immediate reward for doing so, we are demonstrating love and appreciation for our Creator.
4. It’s important to the Lord that everyone has an opportunity to accept the gospel, whether they actually accept the invitation or not. In order for God to be the just God we know Him to be, at the end of the day, everyone must have an opportunity to hear the truth. That, of course, is part of the incentive behind the vast missionary effort taking place on the other side of the veil (D&C 138); as well as the great effort going forward here in mortality. It’s also true that accepting the truth once heard is no simple matter. It usually takes preparation and multiple opportunities (invitations) before a person is ready to be baptized. Missionaries who get no further than presenting the name of the Church, hopefully in association with a friendly, smiling demeanor, have helped move the Lord’s cause forward. There is benefit if an investigator gets no further than learning to pray, or having exposure to the scriptures. That’s at least a start.
5. Any great accomplishment requires great sacrifice. When things get really tough, we might well remember what Joseph Smith taught: “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (Lectures on Faith , 69). Which is perhaps part of the reason why the Law of Sacrifice has been such an important part of the gospel from the beginning (Moses 5:4-16). With regard to this law, we may not be asked to sacrifice a first born son as was Abraham (Genesis 22:1-18), or give our life as some early pioneers and others have done. Among other things, our sacrifice is perhaps more likely to involve patiently persevering in faith during times when it may appear that we aren’t getting much from the effort.
6. It’s the least we can do for someone who has made the ultimate sacrifice; and who has done so much for us.