You don’t want to miss your mission, no matter what it might be.
Hundreds packed the Assembly Hall at the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni Center to hear retired BYU professor of religion Susan Easton Black speak at Education Week. Black offered her audience a detailed history of missionaries in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a fresh perspective on their importance today.
“Missionary work does not begin until the Book of Mormon is published,” Black said. She began with the organizing of the church and detailed the rise of missionary work throughout church history, culminating with over 85,000 full-time missionaries serving today.
Immense success clearly marked the early missions in church history. While the first official missionary of the church only lasted three days and baptized no one, within years missionaries were baptizing people by the hundreds.
Black read Jeremiah 16:16 and discussed the difference between hunters, who stalk a single prey, and fishermen, who gather in by the hundreds. Drawing a comparison to missionary work, she counseled that the modern-day work is often performed one-by-one, like the hunter. This became a theme for her remarks.
There is an “incredible element of sacrifice” involved with missionary service, she said. Whether it be missing schooling, employment, family events or even a budding romance, every missionary must answer for themselves why they choose to sacrifice. The answer, according to Black, is that no one wants to miss it.
One example Black provided was that of Elder LeGrand Richards, a past member of the Quorum of the Twelve. On a visit to BYU, Elder Richards remarked to a small group that despite his significant physical limitations, he had never felt better because he knew he would soon be with the Savior.
The service Elder Richards offered spanned a lifetime and demonstrated his sincere desire to not miss an opportunity to serve the Lord. Members of the church should seek to adopt a similar attitude, because any such opportunity should not be missed.
Examples like this, Black explained, are a witness that “the Lord expects us to keep moving.” She said that every member of the Church, no matter their age, can participate in serving the Lord through missionary work.
“Life can be long, but only if you think about yourself. Life can be long if you’re one of the crowd,” said Black. “You don’t have to just follow the crowd, you get to follow the Lord. You can be a missionary.”
In conclusion, Black specifically spoke to older listeners, saying, “Don’t sit home. You can do a lot of wonderful things, but don’t miss your mission.” Her message was clear: the Lord can use people at any age.