Hello again from Temple Square. Looks like it’s time to send off another e-mail to you. We hope that all is well. You may remember that last year I had sent part of this information out so, I hope you don’t mind if I send it out again, with some additions. I hope this will give you a better understanding of who you are and whom you represent. I love the following definition of the term missionary:
Someone who leaves their FAMILY for a short time, so that others may be with their families for ETERNITY.
In describing a missionary’s mission, Elder William R. Bradford acknowledged this:
“When a missionary is placed in a mission environment of order and discipline where all that is done in harmony with the Spirit, the missionary experiences a great transformation. The heavens open. Powers are showered out. Mysteries are revealed. Habits are improved. Sanctification begins. Through this process the missionary becomes a vessel of light that can shine forth the gospel of Jesus Christ in a world of darkness.…
“Missions are for missionaries. It is a marvelous gift of time, a time given when you can experience glimpses of heavenly life here on earth. It is a time of cleansing and refreshing. It is a special time when the Holy Ghost can seal upon you the knowledge of the great plan for your exaltation. It is one of your best opportunities to become a celestial candidate.”1
As you reflect upon the name “missionary” there are some interesting conceptions found within the Greek translation. My son, Lincoln, shared this with me during some of his personal study in school and presented it this way:
The Greek translation for missionaryis ιεραπόστολος. (Note: If the translation doesn’t come through with this email, please see the attached PDF)
The English translation of the Greek word απόστολος is apostle. It’s fascinating to me that the Greek word απόστολος (apostle) is in their translation for missionary.
The word απόστολος (apóstolos) in Classical Greek means: “one who is sent away”,ais a messenger and/or ambassador.
1. In the Latter Day Saint movement, an Apostle is a “special witness of the name of Jesus Christ who is sent to teach the principles of salvation to others.”bIn many Latter Day Saint churches, an Apostle is a priesthood office of high authority within the church hierarchy.
2. The calling of an apostle is to be a special witness of the name of Jesus Christ through all the world, particularly of his divinity and of his bodily resurrection from the dead (see Acts 1:22; D&C 107:23).
The first four letters of the Greek word for missionary (ιερα) translates into English as Sacred
1. Sacred means worthy of veneration and respect. By designating something as sacred, the Lord signals that it is of higher value and priority than other things. Sacred things are to be treated with more care, given greater deference, and regarded with deeper reverence. Sacred ranks high in the hierarchy of heavenly values.c
Interestingly as well is that the first three letters of the Greek word for missionary (ιερ) translates into English as the word Hier or Heir.
1. heir /e(ə)r/ Noun:
a. A person legally entitled to the property or rank of another.
b. A person inheriting and continuing the legacy of a predecessor.
2. hier: Categorization of a group of people according to ability or status.
a. Liddell & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford, 1944.
b. McConkie, Bruce R. (1979). Mormon Doctrine. Deseret Book. p. 46. ISBN 0-88494-062-4.
c. “To Hold Sacred” April General Conference2012, Elder Paul B. Pieper of the Seventy
So, to summarize this up, from the Greek translation of the word Missionary you can surmise it to mean “sacred apostle”. If you think about being an heir or entitled to it’s privileges, you may deduce that you have the same calling, participating in the same assignment, and entitled to the same guidance and protection of the Spirit as the apostles themselves do. As you ponder on this, I hope you realize just how extraordinary your calling is as a missionary. Isn’t that thought provoking? What a great responsibility and mission you share with the Apostles themselves.
So, with this in mind, consider the remarks by Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita speaking on being a sacred messenger:
“Your attitudes and the love that you show toward others are very significant messages.… Your message is a message of love, a message of hope, and a message of faith. Your attitude and your actions invite the Spirit, and the Spirit enables us to understand the things that are important. What I want to convey to you is that through your love, you are imparting the love of God. You are a treasure of this Church. I am so very thankful to all of you for your sacrifice and your dedication”.2
Sister Olivia Snow, serving in Colorado, recognized this and expresses it this way:
I am eternally grateful for my mission and I grow more and more grateful every single day. I have started sleeping with my nametag on. I never want to take it off. It has become so much more than just a tag to me. So many times I just look down at it and smile. It is the first thing that I see when I open my eyes after praying. It is the thing that I point to whenever I introduce myself. It always reminds me of who I am and whom I represent. I am constantly working on engraving it on my heart. The time I have worn this tag has changed my life for forever.3
In speaking of missionaries, Elder Adney Y. Komatsu infers the following:
Jesus said to his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”(Matt. 16:24–25.)
The word deny implies sacrifice or giving up one’s personal desires for the happiness of others. We often hear it said that a missionary sacrifices two years of his life to serve the Lord. In the beginning he may think it a sacrifice, especially when the work becomes difficult and the disappointments are numerous; but the sooner the missionary learns to keep the commandments of the Lord, deny himself, as the Savior admonished his disciples, sacrifice his own desires for those of others for the building up of the kingdom of God, and lose himself in the work, then will he find true happiness in his missionary labors.
With each sacrifice his testimony is strengthened, for to sacrifice is to obey and to love his fellowman. Missionary work is not easy and requires difficult personal discipline with many self-denials.
Missionaries are wonderful and carry with them a great spirit of enthusiasm because they are willing to obey the commandments of the Lord and sacrifice with love in their hearts. If you would like to emulate a missionary, or become like one, you must obey, sacrifice, and love your fellowman.4
Elder Ronald A. Rasband recapped it in this way, “To John and Peter Whitmer Jr. the Lord said this: ‘For many times you have desired of me to know that which would be of the most worth unto you.’(Doctrine and Covenants 15:4; 16:4)
“I suppose many of you young men have asked yourselves that same question. Here is the Lord’s answer: ‘And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father.’”(Doctrine and Covenants 15:6; 16:6)5
In answering the question, (What can a person do to prepare himself or herself for a mission?) that was proposed to him, President Paul H. Dunn answered with this:
A missionary needs to want to follow the admonition of the Savior, to lose himself in the service of someone else. If that characteristic is in his life, all the other things can be added to it very quickly. To have a desire to serve and to be in the right frame of mind are the most important characteristics a missionary can have.…(“A Conversation with President Paul H. Dunn on What It’s Like to Be a Missionary”, New Era, July 1971.)
I agree with President Dunn that we need to turn ourselves outward to be successful. President Monson also has said this along the same lines, “To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellowmen. Service to others is akin to duty, the fulfillment of which brings true joy.” (President Thomas S. Monson, “The Lord’s Way”, Ensign, May 1990.)
Being a missionary is hard and very taxing on your emotions and spirit. Remember, you do not need to be perfect or even be the best in order to be successful. In Preach my Gospel it reads, “Your success as a missionary is measured primarily by your commitment to find, teach, baptize, and confirm people and to help them become faithful members of the Church who enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost. Success is not about how many baptisms you have and the outward results of your efforts against others. Your success comes from your responsibility to teach clearly and powerfully so that they can make a correct choice. Some may not choose to do so, but they were afforded the opportunity and therein lies your success”. (See Preach My Gospel, 1: What is My Purpose as a Missionary/A Successful Missionary.)Sister Karley Sink, serving in the Ukraine, wrote home of a simple lesson she remembered as a child and uses this quaint analogy to explain this very concept:
Giving our Best even when we are not perfect
When I was in second grade we had this, sort of, art contest. I have no artistic ability whatsoever, and I certainly didn’t then, but I remember being really excited because they were going to hang up all of our pictures and have like an art show. I thought it was so cool that my picture was going to be in it to show off to my parents. I spent forever trying to figure out what to draw, as I couldn’t think of anything that I knew how to draw. I finally took my favorite colors and tried to draw some flowers. I drew these two huge, disproportional flowers that looked more like giant suns with giant rays of light coming out of them, but they were pink and yellow. You can kind of barely tell they’re flowers, except that the bottom half of the drawing is green, so you would guess it’s grass.
When we brought our parents through, my mom and dad raved over it. Ok, well my dad being my dad joked about it but then put on his humorous smile and acted like I was the best artist in the world. My mom was more convincing. She said she was so proud of me, and asked the teacher to give her my picture where she hung it above the stove in our kitchen and it’s still there to this day. I have told my mom she can take the thing down if she wants and my feelings won’t be hurt. I can now see how imperfect it was. But my mom is very diligent, as I said, and she still insists that she thinks it’s pretty, and that she likes it there.
I think it’s because of the effort I put into that picture that meant so much to her. She didn’t care that the outcome was imperfect. What matters to her is the effort I put into it to give to her. I feel it’s the same with our Heavenly Father. We may think we’re so not perfect sometimes and get upset at ourselves, but God doesn’t really expect a perfect outcome, He just expects a perfect effort and a full desire to do our best. He rejoices and cherishes in our efforts because they mean so much to Him, and He loves these reminders that we love Him too. I like to think He puts some of them on his wall somewhere. He really does love us! He made us with weaknesses; He never expected us to be perfect in outcome, He only expects us to try perfectly, meaning to try with all our hearts.6
Along these same lines, President Monson gave the following quote as he addressed the All-Church Coordinating Council in 1990 and illustrates what Sister Sink was saying:
“Of all the dear sights in the world, nothing is so beautiful as a child when it is giving something. Any small thing it gives, a child gives the world to you. It opens the world to you as if it were a book you have never been able to read. But when a gift must be found, it is always some absurd little thing, pasted on crooked … an angel looking like a clown. A child has so little that it can give, because it never knows it has given you everything.” (Margaret Lee Runbeck)7
As missionaries and children of our Heavenly Father you are giving some of the greatest gifts to others. It will matter not at the perfection of that gift, what will matter is that the gift you are giving will be given with all your heart. In the True to the Faith booklet the following is found under Missionary Work:
“The most powerful missionary message you can send is your own example of living a happy Latter-day Saint life. Remember that people do not join the Church only because of gospel principles they learn. They join because they feel something that begins to satisfy their spiritual needs. If you are sincere in your friendship with them, they will be able to feel the spirit of your testimony and happiness.” (True to the Faith, “Misionary Work”, (2004) 104–6.)
In missionary work you will come to know how much the Lord is involved as He is there to guide, inspire and watch over you. “And it shall come to pass that power shall rest upon thee; thou shalt have great faith, and I will be withthee and go before thy face.” (D&C 39:12). The following missionary accounts illustrate some instances of each of these. The first is from Sister Jill Knapp serving in Norway:
Saturday night during planning we decided we needed to visit this inactive woman on the following day. We knew almost nothing about her. We just had her address from the ward list, but we didn’t recognize the street name. We only knew the city. We had no access to the Internet on Sunday to look up the address because the library was closed. We decided we would just take the bus to that city, knock on some doors and ask people if they could point us in the right direction. We had no idea if we would even find this house, but we felt like we should at least try.
After church we took the bus out to the city where she lived, but the bus didn’t stop at the right stop. We ended up getting off at a different stop than the one we had planned on. We got off the bus and just started walking. The first road sign we saw just happened to be her street. And, her house was the first one we came to. We knocked on her door and she was home. She let us in and told us that she’s been thinking lately that she needed to start coming back to church. Things like this have happened so many times on my mission, and it’s so evident to me that this is the Lord’s work and we aren’t doing it alone.8
This next story is from Sister McKenna Hill serving in Bolivia:
We had a SUPER cool experience! We had just finished a lunch appointment with a member and as we were leaving the condo we passed a swimming pool. (It’s a rich area, I’m telling you) We said hi to a lady that was sitting there watching us. Just as I was saying hi, I noticed a little boy that was playing by the pool. In that very moment he fell in! The lady next to the little boy didn’t see him. My lifeguard instincts/Spirit immediately directed me to run over there and rescue the boy from drowning. We were able to get him out of the pool super fast—I didn’t even have the chance to realize what was happening. I really was completely guided by the Spirit. The little boy calmed down and his father came and took him to get changed. The lady that we had said hi to (her name is Lupe) just looked at us, shocked. She said with really big eyes, “You came just like angels to save his life.” Bam! It became the perfect moment to contact her, so we did.
The Hermanas will be visiting her. We knew that we were inspired to contact her! I felt a power inside of me. Hermana Wilson told me she didn’t know how I got to the pool so fast. It was sooo cool. All my four years of sitting poolside and doing nothing but get a tan really paid off!! I felt cool to know that God used that talent that I had learned and gained to help save a little life.9
Sister Heather Gross recorded this experience as she serves in Italy:
We had such a fun week. One really full of miracles. I have seen the faith of others this week really create some. This event really touched me a lot.
So, we had been planning this ward activity for months. It was called, “An Evening in Ecuador”. So everything was Ecuadorian, the food, the dancing, the singing, and the games.
The night of the activity came and everything was going great. There were a lot of people—I would say sixty people or so. I figure half of the people there were nonmembers. Then, right when we were bringing out the food, out of nowhere, the sky turned black and some severe lightening began. Everybody ran into the garage, as there wasn’t enough room for everyone in the little country house where I was. Lightening was striking all around us and the thunder was so loud. Children were crying, people were freaking out, and it felt like it was the second coming or something [haha].
No one dared leave the shelter to make a run to their cars, because the lightening was striking the ground, like only 25 feet away from us. I decided to make a run to the garage and into the house to meet up with my companion. I was running so fast. On the way, the lightening struck only a couple feet away from me. I could feel the impact and some people screamed. I got into the house and met up with my companion. The owner of the house took my companion and I into a room where we all knelt in prayer. It was the strongest prayer I have ever felt and heard in my life. She prayed that the storm wouldn’t harm us and that it would pass so that we could enjoy ourselves.
When the prayer was over, we were shaking a little because the spirit was so strong. I got up and looked out the window. There was sunshine shining down on her land. Surrounding her land there was the rolling severe storm in a perfect circle. We knelt back down in prayer and said our thank you. The lightening was continuing to strike on all sides of us, but right where we were we felt the warmth from the sun’s rays shining down. Everyone was really amazed and we had our party. I had made a piñata [haha] and it took thirty people to break it. It was pretty hard. We all danced and sang. It was a great night. I know that God cares about us even in the little things. If we have faith, He will show us his wonders.10
Sister Michelle Taylor, serving in Brazil, relates another story of how missionaries are protected as they serve:
On Saturday night, Sister Barros woke up because she was feeling some pain, which also woke me up too. Right then we started to smell something funny. I got up and opened our bedroom door and was shocked to find our microwave was on fire. We tried putting it out, but couldn’t, so we grabbed our cell phone and left. Our apartment consists of a small bedroom, a kitchen, and a tiny bathroom. Before the fire department got there, we could tell the kitchen was pretty much all on fire and there was a ton of black smoke coming from the house.… When we went back in to see the damage, we noticed that the fire hadn’t even touched our bedroom but left a coating of black residue on a lot of our stuff. However, the kitchen and bathroom were completely destroyed.… Sister Barros and I are completely fine. Heavenly Father protected us. Sister Barros woke up at the perfect moment, and it felt as if God’s angels were there the whole time. If we had lost everything, I know that everything would still have been okay.
We stayed in Porto Alegre last night with some other sisters. A whole bunch of missionaries worked to move all of our stuff to the apartment of the elders that work in our ward and area. They moved in with some of the other elders from Viamão. Elder Alves, one of the President’s assistants, also helped with the move. He told us later that he observed, that every outlet on the walls was melted, but the part that connects to the full gas tank that sits next to the stove. That one hadn’t been touched. It was an enormous miracle that the fire didn’t touch it. Elder Alves also said that it looked as if there had been two hands that kept the fire from entering our bedroom and that it could have only been the hands of the Lord.11
This next short story comes from Sister Alexandra Bennett serving in Zimbabwe. A true pioneer story to end with. It teaches how the power of adaption to the different cultures we may face are important.
Here is a fun story from my missionary adventures in Zimbabwe. We made a HUGE pot of sudza the other day to feed 15 hungry people. The mom was busy so from the beginning to the end it was just my companion and I. It was over an open fire outside in the bush and it was very dark because there was no zessa (power). What an experience, we were crying because of the smoke from the fire in our eyes! We were screaming because the pot was too small for the sudza so it started spilling out and when it starts to boil big blobs go flying that burn you! We had to balance the pot on my knee (that’s what the long handles are for) too stir with both hands. That pot is very difficult to stir. I woke up the next morning with very sore arms and with blisters on my hands.
These African moms are STRONG—she does that every night! The sudza turned out very nice, the kids said it was a bit hard (like nshima from zambia) but very nice! We ate our sudza with beans that Sister Muringapi had made over the fire earlier. It was a very good dinner. We were so proud and went to bed feeling very accomplished. :D12
Through these experiences and stories you can see that even though you have flaws and short-comings, you can still be successful during your missions as missionaries. By simply being obedient and turning outward and opening your hearts among those whom you are called to serve you will be blessed. As a true disciple of our Savior you can be a Sacred Missionary and share in the work along side our beloved Apostles. You are a marvelous work and wonder and will recieve great joy and happiness through your valiant efforts. You are among the greatest missionaries who have inhabited the earth. May Our Father in Heavens’ blessings continue to be upon you.
1. Elder William R. Bradford, “Sanctification through Missionary Service”, Ensign, November 1981
2. Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita, “Missionaries Are a Treasure of the Church”, Ensign, November 2011
3. Sister Olivia Snow, Fort Collins Colorado Mission, 30 June 2014
4. Elder Adney Y. Komatsu, “Sacrifice: Missionary-Style”. Ensign, November 1977.
5. Elder Ronald A. Rasband, “The Devine Call of a Missionary”, Ensign, May 2010.
6. Sister Karly Sink, Ukraine, Kiev Mission, 6 May 2014.
7. President Thomas S. Monson, “It’s the Spirit that Counts”, All-Church Coordinating Council, 16 October 1990
8. Sister Jill Knapp, Oslo Norway Mission, 16 June 2014
9. Sister Hermana McKenna Hill, Bolivia, Cochabamba Mission, 24 June 2014
10. Sister Heather Gross, Milan Italy Mission, 18 June 2014
11. Sister Michelle Taylor, Brazil, 21 July 2014.
12. Sister Alexandra Bennett, Harare Zimbabwe Mission, 5 May 2014