Today, I’m studying Senior Missionaries and the Gospel, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 2004 General Conference.
Okay, so I can remember more details about the October 2004 General Conference. First of all, two apostles had died between then and the April conference – so two new apostles were sustained: Dieter F. Uchtdorf and David A. Bednar. It’s always an exciting thing when new apostles are called.
In my own personal life, I had recently moved from Utah back to PA with my (then ex-husband) and two daughters. We were living at my mom’s house while we were trying to find a place to live in PA.
Otherwise, I can’t say that I specifically remember this talk – especially given the subject matter. (I was a young mom, being a senior missionary seemed a ways off). Even now, the topic doesn’t feel totally relevant for me, but I’m still studying the message. There are good things to learn.
Hasten Your Shuffle
A cute quote from President Nelson:
“I express gratitude for our senior missionaries. They are young in spirit, wise, and willing to work. They even tolerate remarks from their fun-filled children who might change President Spencer W. Kimball’s plea “Lengthen your stride” to “Hasten your shuffle.” – Russell M. Nelson
I can recall that around the time that this talk was given, there were a lot of pleas and requests from our own local authorities to have senior couples serve missions. I was in my early twenties at the time, and there wasn’t really a way that I could go and serve, but I was inspired by these requests. I remember hearing testimonies of returned senior missionaries. I didn’t serve a mission in my younger years, and I knew that I wanted to go on a mission one day.
In fact, in 2002, when the Nauvoo temple was rebuilt and dedicated, I went to the dedication broadcast with one of my good friends. She happened to know the couple who had been called to be the temple president and matron of the temple. She made a remark to me about them, and I had a very strong prompting at that moment. I needed to do what I could then (when I was only in my early 20s) to prepare spiritually, physically, and financially to be able to serve a mission in my later years.
Any time I read talks like President Nelson’s, I’m reminded of this experience, and I pray that I will be prepared – spiritually, physically, and financially so I can serve God in my later years (they are much closer now!!!)
During his talk, President Nelson quoted Heber J. Grant:
“At general conference in October 1925, President Heber J. Grant issued a clarion call for “men of mature years and sound judgment, who have had experience in the preaching of the gospel, … to go forth and labor in the mission field.” – Heber J. Grant as quoted by Russell M. Nelson
President Nelson continued:
“That need persists.” – Russell M. Nelson
Again, I don’t currently have the opportunity to serve a mission right now, but I feel pretty sure that the need for missionary couples will still exist when I am in a position to serve. So, I wonder, will I be ready? Even though I cannot serve now, I can express my gratitude to Heavenly Father for the gift of the gospel by doing what I need to prepare for a mission.
Even though President Nelson didn’t directly address this in his talk, this is where I feel like my own study and application of it is taking me. So, I will study three ways to prepare for a mission.
This is the most obvious type of preparation that we will need to make. I suppose to really prepare spiritually for a mission, we will first need to identify what it is that we will share on a mission.
Simply put: the gospel.
President Nelson taught:
“All of us may preach the gospel by precept and example. The word gospel means “good news.” The good news is the Lord Jesus Christ and His message of salvation.” – Russell M. Nelson
We can prepare ourselves for our missions by learning and living the gospel. This is done in the obvious ways – prayer, studying the scriptures, attending church meetings. Another important thing we can do to spiritually prepare for our mission is to find and hone our talents.
My piano teacher chose to serve a mission in her later years. When she served, she was often teaching the piano to members of her wards so they could have accompaniment during sacrament and primary. Had she not spent the time to cultivate her talent, she wouldn’t have been able to serve as richly.
There are so many other examples, too. Whatever it is we are good at, I’m sure that the Lord will utilize. Gardening, cooking, art, accounting, speaking a foreign language, cleaning teeth, etc. These are all ways that we may be asked to serve in the future. Not only that, but we can also do more to study new interests and curiosities. This may also help us to serve the Lord later on.
It’s important to remember that spiritual preparation for a mission (whether your serving when you’re young or when you’re a little older) is not relegated only to scripture study/prayer/church. Yes – that kind of spiritual preparation is important. We need to have testimonies. We need to know what it’s like to grow our testimony. We need to have the ability to teach others, testify to others, to bear one another’s burdens and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. This is of critical importance.
But we shouldn’t overlook how our many other talents might be utilized by the Lord to spread the good word of His gospel.
The hard thing about serving a mission in later years is that…you’re old.
I’m currently in my 40s. I can absolutely tell that I’m not the spritely young woman I was 20 years ago. My hips crack all the time. I need more sleep. I’ve even starting spotting grey hairs! But for the most part, I have great health. My mind is sharp and active. I can walk for miles and miles. I am capable physically of doing most things that I need or want to do.
I’m at a point in my life where I am realizing that this will not always be the case! And I’ve come to a really brutal awakening recently (with a mild health scare) that if I don’t take steps now to manage my health, then I’ll have real problems as I age.
I don’t want real problems as I age.
Not only that, but as I study President Nelson’s words, I realize that if I want to prepare to serve a mission in my later years, then I need to manage myself physically so that I will be able to do so. President Nelson stated:
“As I extol the work of senior missionaries, I realize that there are many more who would like to serve but are not able to do so.” – Russell M. Nelson
It’s interesting to think about physical preparation and its effect on our ability to serve as we age – while reading a talk by President Nelson. The man is turning 95 YEARS OLD September 9th. He just doesn’t seem like a 95 year old!
Last year, President Nelson happen to come to our sacrament meeting one week during the summer. Seeing him in person, I admit – he looked old. But he moved well. His mind was so sharp. He just didn’t seem to be in his 90s.
I’ve been trying to research more about President Nelson’s health habits. I can’t find anything about his specific choices. But, from what I can conclude – having read so many of his talks and knowing of his background in medicine – I figure, he is probably following the word of wisdom.
So much has been physically expected of President Nelson – and others who serve in the church. Even though I can’t serve now, I can prepare myself by taking good care of my body so that I will have a strong and active body that is ready to serve my God.
Though nothing is stated about financial preparation in this talk, I do feel like it is worth pondering for a moment.
First of all – President Nelson talked about “qualifications” for service:
“Many humble Latter-day Saints fear that they are not qualified for missionary labors. But to such a prospective missionary, the Lord has given this assurance: “Faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.” – Russell M. Nelson
There is no financial, physical, or spiritual “qualification” for serving God. We simply need to have a desire to serve, and faith, hope, and charity. Yes, there are logistical and even financial concerns when it comes to a mission, but we don’t have to worry about that. As President Nelson explained:
“Opportunities for senior missionaries are varied and vast. Their calls to serve are officially made after prayerful consideration has been given to their occupational background, language experience, and personal capabilities.” – Russell M. Nelson
I don’t think that we need to get all stressed out about this kind of preparation. Yet, I also feel that it is appropriate to ask – are there things that I can do now to prepare, financially, for a mission? I don’t think that there is one single answer to this question that is applicable to everyone.
In fact, I feel that this is probably a question that we should take to the Lord as individuals. And then, the Lord will direct us on what we need to do.
The answer might be something like “save some money from every paycheck.”
The answer might be “get out of debt.”
Then again, the answer might be “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?…Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take athought for the things of itself.” (See Matthew 6:31,34.)
I don’t know what the Lord will direct you to do if you feel prompted to seek his counsel in this regard. But I do know that if we go to the Lord, He will help us to understand how we ought to personally prepare for the future.
I’ll wrap this up right now. I’m so grateful for the words of the prophets. I have to confess: I was about to skip this talk. Based on the title, it just didn’t seem applicable to me at all. I’m at least a decade away from being in a position where I can serve a mission. I have things to worry about right now. It just didn’t seem all that applicable.
But as I studied, I realize I’m at a really important part of my life right now. I’m fully in mid-life mode. I kind of glided through my 20s. I had some real defining moments in my 30s. I’m realizing that I’m laying the ground work for my own “old age” years RIGHT NOW. The pathways in the brain are getting pretty worn in, but I can take stock and ask myself – If I continue on in these habits, where will I be in 20, 30, 40 more years???
I know that our brains are “plastic,” and that we can always change, but it sure gets a lot harder to change when we hit the same synapses over and over and over again. It will be easier for me to blaze some new trails now and get them nice and worn rather than try to fight my way through the jungle of habits and my brain in the decades to come. (Does any of this make sense?!) These choices now will impact my future – when this talk will be applicable to me!
So – what am I doing now? Spiritually? Do I bear sweet fruit? Or am I starting to become cynical, impatient, and bitter? Is there a spiritual “pathway” that I need to forge so I can better serve the Lord in the future (and just live a better life, in general!)?
What am I doing now, physically? Do I keep the Word of Wisdom? Am I treating my body like a temple by eating lots and lots of veggies, fruits and plants? Do I eat plenty of grains? Am I reserving meat for times of utter desperation and famine? Am I getting enough sleep? Am I walking and exercising? Or am I doing destructive things? These choices (dietary, etc) may not seem harmful today, but they will be compounded day by day. What will my life look like in 2 decades – will I be spry and skiing with the best of them? Or will I be suffering with a condition that was avoidable??? The time for me to make this choice is right now.
What am I doing now, financially? Am I working hard so that I can be capable of serving the Lord? Am I paying my tithing? Or have I made possessions and material items my god???
I’m thankful for a prophet who has been willing to serve. President Nelson was called as an apostle in 1984. He has been serving as an apostle and now prophet for 35 years. Wow. He lives what he preaches. And we have been blessed by his humble and dedicated sacrifice.