Last year I attended a dinner gathering of stake and mission leaders. After a blessing was pronounced on the food and as we began to eat, we discovered that each individual had been given one chopstick as their only eating utensil. Eager to taste the beautifully prepared food, we asked our hosts for additional chopsticks but were informed that we would need to eat with what was provided. After poking at our food in frustration for some time, we were finally given another chopstick to use to enjoy our meal. Over the course of the evening, we had an enlightening discussion about how, like eating with chopsticks, the work of salvation is more effectively accomplished when members and full-time missionaries come together as a unified tool in the hand of the Lord.
Just as some of us may not know how to use chopsticks, past practices, traditions or lack of experience may prevent members and missionaries from being equally-yoked in the work of salvation. Thankfully, it is never too early nor too late to change. President Thomas S. Monson has declared, “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work.”1 We are blessed with many examples in the scriptures that teach us how to accomplish this.
One example is found in the Book of Mormon. The great missionary Ammon, sacrificed much to dedicate his life to preach the gospel to the Lamanites. He shared the gospel through consistent acts of love and service resulting in many lasting conversions. The Lord also sent others to help Ammon. In Alma 19:16-28, we learn of Abish, a Lamanite believer who had never before shared her beliefs with anyone. After witnessing the spiritual experiences of Ammon and the household of King Lamoni, she acted on a prompting to invite others to come and see and “ran forth from house to house, making it known unto the people.”2 When Abish realized that Ammon and those he was teaching were in need of help, she personally stepped in and lifted them up.
“Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him'By President Thomas S. Monson
By being sensitive to promptings, acting on them with courage and faith, and being present to encourage and lift, Abish, played a pivotal role in the conversion of many of her people. Like Abish, we can each seek promptings by pondering the following questions:
- Do those around us know of our conversion to the Lord?
- Do we recognize the power of God in our daily lives and seek opportunities to share those experiences with others?
- How do we help others to recognize the power of God in their lives?
- How can we play a more active, personal role to help lift the missionaries and those they teach?
We too should act promptly on the impressions we receive.
Recently, I visited with a young man who is serving as a ward missionary. He shared with me how the members of his ward and the full-time missionaries assigned to serve there have transformed what has historically been an unproductive area for missionary work to one now filled with activity, enthusiasm and conversions. He described how the missionaries spent several months serving the members with simple acts of kindness, sharing their talents and establishing trust through diligent, hard work. He further spoke of how the members, touched by the examples and spirit of the missionaries developed a love and respect for them. Built on this foundation of love and trust, the missionaries invited members to assist in fellowshipping and teaching their investigators and the members began to invite the missionaries into their homes, for home teaching and visits to the less-active and part member families in the ward. Regular, non-member friendly church activities were planned and a culture of inviting friends and acquaintances to them was established. In this particular ward, members and missionaries are now actively and joyfully engaged in the work of salvation together.
As the father of one the missionaries in this story, I am grateful for the kindness and actions of the members there and everywhere who work together with the missionaries. I am grateful for my son and every other full-time missionary who is serving diligently with faith and love. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father and my Savior for the opportunity to work together with missionaries and members in the work of salvation. I have absolute faith that as we strive to work together as members and missionaries, this great work will move forward changing lives for the better.