It’s not hard to find Mormon missionaries these days. They walk under the sun, talk to strangers on streets, knock on doors, and teach in homes. You may even see them cleaning a garage or giving community service. While these missionaries come from different places and speak different languages, they share a common purpose: “To invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.” (See Preach My Gospel, page 1).
So, why do members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as young as 18 years old forego education, job, and comforts in life to serve as full-time missionaries for two years? Here are a few reasons:
Serving a Mission is a Commandment
Prior to his ascension, the Savior commissioned His apostles to “go… and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (See Matthew 28:19). Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that the Savior’s instruction to spread His gospel is still in force today and that every able member especially young men ages 18 to 25 years old are called to the work.
It is a Covenant in the Priesthood
A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and His children. Abraham entered into a covenant with God, and the Lord promised him that through the ministry of his seed, all the families of the earth would be blessed with blessings of the Gospel. (See Abraham 2:9-11.) Abraham covenanted with the Lord that he would send his sons on missions.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ, Latter-day Saints are entitled to the blessings which the Lord promised to Abraham and his seed including the blessings of the Priesthood. In return they, as seeds of Abraham, covenant to preach the gospel unto all nations and families of the earth.
Latter-day Saints Have a Unique Message to the World
While many other churches teach about Jesus Christ, Mormon missionaries believe that they have a unique message that is unknown to most people. By sharing this message with others, Mormon youth express love and concern for those who are “kept from the truth because they do not know where to find it.” (See Doctrine and Covenants 123:12).
Missionary Work Brings Joy to the Soul
The Lord promised joy to those who labor in His vineyard. As a former missionary myself, I have felt that joy seeing those I teach change their lives and enter the waters of baptism. I believe that those same feelings of joy motivate every young man and woman who is currently serving in the mission field.
Aside from the joy of doing God’s work, serving a mission prepares Mormon youth for greater roles in building the kingdom of God. They develop skills and acquire talents that help them become better sons and daughters, parents, teachers, and Church leaders. Gordon B. Hinckley, former Mormon Prophet, promised that to those young people who serve full-time missions, “two years will not be time lost. It will be skills gained.”
While missionary work has been part of the faith of Latter-day Saints for many years, it is by no means mandatory to all. Serving a full time mission is a personal choice of every young man and woman who desire to share the joy of having the gospel in their lives.