Many families in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — especially in Utah — are experts in missionary preparation. Parents know how to prepare children for missions, send care packages in plenty of time and prepare the perfect coming-home luncheon.
But what about serving and supporting the local missionaries?
“We all share this great responsibility,” President Ezra Taft Benson taught. “We cannot avoid it. Let no man or woman think that because of where we live, or because of our place in society, or because of our occupation or status, we are exempt from this responsibility.”
Here are seven ways to support the missionaries in your area as they go forth with faith.
1. Give them referrals
Elder David A. Bednar taught that members have the responsibility to support full-time missionaries in this way.
“(A) common element in many of our prayers is a request that the missionaries will be led to individuals and families who are prepared to receive the message of the Restoration,” he taught in 2008. “But ultimately it is my responsibility and your responsibility to find people for the missionaries to teach. Missionaries are full-time teachers; you and I are full-time finders. And you and I as lifelong missionaries should not be praying for the full-time missionaries to do our work!”
2. Teach lessons with them
Missionary lessons are generally more successful when they are taught with a member present. Chapter 13 of “Preach My Gospel” gives missionaries the following counsel:
“Before baptism and confirmation, ensure that members are present at every lesson, if possible. These members should be with the investigators often to answer their questions, understand their challenges, and encourage them.”
Help the missionaries follow this counsel by making yourself available to teach lessons with them. When investigators are baptized, attend the service and show them continuing support. Missionaries are transferred regularly; ward members can be a great long-term support to new members.
3. Pray for your ward mission plan
Ward missionaries, ward mission leaders and bishops have a special interest in the ward mission plan, but all ward members can help by praying and occasionally fasting for the ward mission plan’s success.
“If we want to understand and help our missionaries, we must have faith as missionaries have faith, we must think as missionaries think, and we must feel as missionaries feel,” Elder Erich W. Kopischke of the Seventy taught in a 2007 address.
[pullquote]”We must … involve the members of the Church more effectively in missionary work. Member-missionary work is the key to the future growth of the Church, and it is one of the great keys to the individual growth of our members.” —President Ezra Taft Benson[/pullquote]
4. Feed them
Missionaries traditionally share mealtimes with Church members, but the point of this exercise isn’t just to keep the missionaries fed. When the missionaries come over for dinner, ask them about their investigators and make plans to help in their efforts. Ask them questions that will help you and your family support the ward mission plan. Make the best use of these mealtimes by using them as a tool in helping in the work of salvation.
“As the missionaries become immersed in ‘Preach My Gospel,’ they learn and apply important doctrines and principles which make them more capable in their important service,” said Elder Kopischke. “Despite this, they still need all of our help and support. Only together can we fulfill the great charge given to the ancient and modern Apostles: ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.'”
5. Involve the missionaries in ward activities
Ward leaders can involve the missionaries in the planning and execution of ward activities to ensure they support the missionaries’ teaching and reactivation efforts. “Preach My Gospel” mentions the value of doing so:
“The priesthood executive committee and ward council coordinate activation efforts of priesthood quorums and full-time missionaries. They also plan how to fellowship less-active members, especially by inviting them to Church meetings and activities.”
6. Work with them to fellowship less active ward members
When you see and talk with the missionaries, ask them about ward members who might need a friend. Make it a point to reach out to these people. Often, investigators or less active members are more receptive to the invitation of a friend than that of a missionary.
“We … have a great obligation to love our neighbors,” President Ezra Taft Benson taught. “It is the second of the two great commandments. Many of our neighbors are not yet members of the Church. We must be good neighbors. We must love all our Father’s children and associate with them.”
7. Serve with them
All Church members — but especially those who are preparing for full-time missionary service — can benefit from teaching with, finding with and serving with the full-time missionaries. If the missionaries in your ward are involved in a service project, offer to give them a ride and stay to help.
“We must … involve the members of the Church more effectively in missionary work,” President Ezra Taft Benson taught. “Member-missionary work is the key to the future growth of the Church, and it is one of the great keys to the individual growth of our members.”