November 5, 2012 by FHElessons
When I was a young woman, I had a spiritual experience while watching the program put on by the Primary children in Sacrament Meeting. Our ward had a very large primary, and the children filled the stand to overflowing. I wish I had a picture of children up on the stand for a Primary program to give you a visual, but I couldn’t find one anywhere. Here is a picture of my current ward’s primary a few years ago:
Imagine these kids filling the stand and singing “We are as the Army of Helaman. We have been taught in our youth. And we will be the Lord’s missionaries to bring the world his truth.” If you can imagine that, or imagine children from a Primary program you’ve seen in the past, you can get an idea of what I saw that day. As this whole stand full of children sang about being like the Army of Helaman, I felt the Spirit testify that this was today’s army. This was an army of righteousness that would be sent out by the Lord to bring His truth to the world. It was a very spiritual experience, and I thought that I was the only one who had felt it.
A few years later quite a few of these children had grown into young men who were worthy to serve missions. Again, I wish I had a visual, but here is a photo of the Young Men and Young Women from my current ward a few years ago:
Even though these aren’t the same kids from the Primary photo above, hopefully this gives you a little visual of the Primary kids growing into prospective missionaries. It was at the Farewell Sacrament Meeting programs of these young men that I found out that everyone else in the ward had had the same spiritual experience as I had all those years ago, because at each of these young men’s Farewells, they chose to gather their friends who were around the same age and sing “We’ll Bring the World His Truth.” So, at each of maybe 6-8 missionary farewells, we were all reminded of that spiritual experience we had when they were just Primary aged, and we were reminded that the youth of our ward were a mighty army of God who would go forth to share His truth.
With that concept in mind, I would like to share a Family Home Evening lesson with you about what our children today, who are our prospective missionaries, can learn from the 2,000 Stripling Warriors of old.
Obviously, for the opening song, you will want to use:
We’ll Bring the World His Truth – children’s songbook #172
Some ideas for a closing song:
- I Hope They Call Me on a Mission – children’s songbook #169
- Behold a Royal Army – hymn #251
- We Are All Enlisted – hymn #250
The song begins:
We have been born, as Nephi of old,
To goodly parents who love the Lord.
This seems to be the focus of most lessons that refer to the 2,000 Stripling Warriors – that their mothers had taught them to have faith (Alma 56:47-48). Sometimes people wonder, “What about their fathers?” They were actually part of the picture as well! Alma 56:27 tells us that the fathers of these young men brought provisions to the army. So, obviously the fathers were also involved in caring for their sons. Perhaps not every prospective missionary does have faithful parents. But the lesson for those who have been taught by their parents and those who haven’t is the same:
1. Get a testimony and continually strive to strengthen it.
Just as the 2,000 Stripling Warriors had great faith that carried them through their service in battle, so should our young men and women today develop faith that will carry them through their missions.
Because I, myself, never served a full-time mission, I asked for advice from some of my friends and family members who have served missions about what prospective missionaries should know. Here is some of what they said:
Amanda C.: Continually strive to strengthen your testimony. If there is something that you are not certain about, study it out until you feel comfortable with it. Make your testimony as strong as possible.
Brian A.(currently serving as a mission president): Get a testimony. The only way that I know to do this is:
- Read the Book of Mormon daily. I would like to see future missionaries read the Book of Mormon multiple times before going a mission.
- Pray daily.
- Do things that require faith.
Melinda A. (wife of above mission pres.): The Lord knows each person individually. He has a specific plan for you. He knows what He wants you, personally, to do and become. Seek to know His will and allow Him to guide you. Work hard at learning how the Spirit communicates with you. Spend time in prayer, counseling with your Heavenly Father. Share your fears and desires with Him. Ponder over what you think He may be trying to teach you and what things He needs you to learn. Go to Him in prayer again and ask Him if what you are thinking about is His desire. Ask Him to direct your thoughts. Be still and listen for peaceful feelings of affirmation. If they don’t come, repeat the process over and over again.
Amanda C.: Study Preach My Gospel daily. The more you know going into the mission the better off you will be. And memorize as many scriptures as possible, especially those related to the discussions. For various reasons you may not always be able to get your scriptures out but you can always share what is in your head.
Bruce P.: True knowledge of the gospel invites the Spirit.
Mormonmissionprep.com: The more I learned about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, the more I realized how much I didn’t know. The more I studied the scriptures, the more I wanted to immerse myself in them and learn all that I could. An hour a day of personal scripture study suddenly didn’t seem like nearly enough.
Here is a checklist for strengthening your testimony before (and during your mission). I have included ideas from above as well as some of my own. If you’re teaching this as an FHE lesson, you can have your family brainstorm a list and write it on a whiteboard or paper.
What to Do to Strengthen My Testimony:
- Avoid sin (pornography, Word of Wisdom issues, and all sins)
- Be honest in all your dealings (perhaps you need to so some repenting for past mistakes? For example, prior to his mission, a boy I know chose to delete all songs from his iTunes library that he had not legally purchased.)
- Study your scriptures daily
- Read the Book of Mormon again and again
- Study Preach my Gospel daily
- Pray sincerely, multiple times each day – Develop a personal relationship with the Lord – Learn to understand how the Lord communicates with you
- Bear your testimony often
- Attend all your meetings
- Exercise your priesthood whenever possible
- Share the gospel with your non-member friends and family
- Attend the temple often
Before you go out to share the gospel with others, you want to be as spiritually prepared as possible. You want to obtain as much gospel knowledge as you can, and you want to increase the portion of the Spirit that you take with you, since, ultimately, it is the Spirit that converts.
Here is a little more of the song:
We know his plan, and we will prepare,
Increase our knowledge through study and prayer.
2. Pray Often and Sincerely.
Although prayer was mentioned above, I would like to discuss it as it’s own lesson for missionaries because that’s how important it is. Of course, as discussed above, you want to develop a personal relationship with your Heavenly Father before you go out into the mission field. You want to be able to learn to understand how He speaks to you. (For a more in-depth discussion of how to receive personal revelation, see my blog post HERE.) Once you’ve developed this relationship with God, you will, of course, continue to pray for help once out in the mission field.
Alma 58:10: The 2,000 Stripling Warriors did pour out their souls in prayer. And what did they ask for while out on the battle field? They asked for strength. They asked for deliverance. And they asked that they might retain the cities of which the Nephites currently had possession.
Just as the Stripling Warriors, missionaries need to pray for strength. They will need physical strength, spiritual strength, the strength to endure hard times, and the strength to meet their challenges.
Perhaps at times they will even need to pray for deliverance. They may physically need to be delivered from danger. They may need spiritual deliverance from the buffetings of Satan.
And, of course, missionaries will want to pray to “retain their cities.” While thinking of this analogy between missionaries and Stripling Warriors, let us think of the cities as the people to whom the missionaries preach. They are in a battle against Satan for the souls of these people. When they retain a city, they have kept those people in the gospel. When a city is taken by the Lamanites, they have lost that city to the dark side. Missionaries will want to pray for the people they teach and also pray for their converts to be able to stay strong in the gospel.
Here is some of the counsel given by others who have previously served missions:
Amanda C.: Learn to pray effectively and get to the point that you feel you can hear answers.
Christopher L.: It is your job to bring the Spirit into every house you enter. Remember, you bring the Spirit and teach with power, and the investigator gets to choose whether to suffer a change of heart of not. There will be times when the Spirit will witness of the truth of your words and because of pride, they will be rejected.
Melinda A.: Use your study time wisely. Study the things in the gospel that will be helpful to the people you are teaching. When you sit down to study, think of the people you are working with and what they are struggling with. Pray that the Lord will lead you to the truths that will help them, and then try to study those things.
Bruce P.: Pray in specifics. Pray specifically for others and their needs.
3. Make and Keep Covenants.
The story of the Stripling Warriors begins with their parents making a covenant to never again use their weapons of war. When they saw the Nephites under attack for sheltering them, they were tempted to break this covenant, but Helaman convinced them that their salvation depended on them keeping the covenant they had made. Instead, they decided to send their young sons into battle.
Which do you think would be the greater sacrifice? To go into battle yourself, or to send your young sons? As we talked about above, the fathers brought provisions to their sons while stationed for battle. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for those fathers, to be able to do nothing more than bring provisions? Don’t you think they must have longed to take their sons places, to keep their sons safe at home and go out to do the dangerous part themselves?
The story of how the Stripling Warriors had great faith because they had been taught faith by their mothers’ examples is well known. But here we also see that these young men had also been taught covenant making by their parents.
Alma 53:17: The Stripling Warriors themselves entered into a covenant. They covenanted to fight for liberty, even unto the laying down of their lives and to fight in all cases to protect the Nephites (the people of God).
I think the symbolism here is a good one for missionaries. Missionaries give two years of their life to fight for the Lord’s cause. Many times they do this in difficult or dangerous circumstances. In all cases, they strive to protect the people of God spiritually.
Missionaries are also covenant making people. Before entering the mission field, men and women will make sacred covenants in God’s temple. Like the parents of the Stripling Warriors, their salvation is dependent upon them keeping these covenants.
Prospective missionaries should prepare themselves to make these covenants and then do all they can to honor and abide by the covenants afterwards. Again, advice from those who have gone before:
Amanda C.: Attend the temple as much as possible. After I was endowed and when I was still in Utah, I attended a different temple every day (except for Sunday and Monday when they’re closed). I thought this was great. You may only be able to attend the temple a couple times on your mission or maybe not at all, so it is good to build a love for it before you go. You want to be able to testify to people of the blessings of the temple, and the greater your love for it the more strength your testimony will have.
Christopher L.: Satan is real and he will try to derail your mission by tempting you with all manner of sin. He will try to destroy you like he tried to destroy Joseph Smith in the Grove. Avoid anything that might place you in a compromising station or that detracts from the Spirit. You need the spirit now more than ever.
Brian A.: Be worthy. It is much easier to resolve things before you leave for your mission. Confess everything to your bishop. Belated confessions in the mission field have a high chance of getting you sent home for at least 6 months. Learn how to repent and believe the Savior that He will forgive you.
So far we have talked about spiritual preparation that young men and women can make to be ready for their missions. We have talked about how prospective missionaries can:
- Develop a testimony
- Increase the Spirit in their lives
- Practice staying true to their covenants
- Study and learn about the gospel, and
- Draw nearer to God through prayer.
In my next post, I will demonstrate some more lessons learned from the 2,000 Stripling Warriors that will help young men and women prepare for and serve an honorable mission. You can find it HERE.