The following is an article I wrote for a website a friend of mine is designing. Let me know what you think:
“The influence of a valiant mission president is one of the great miracles of the restored gospel.”
-Elder Quentin L. Cook
The Savior, Jesus Christ, spent the entirety of his life teaching people the way to gain true eternal happiness. Every moment of his mortality was characterized by love, service, and sacrifice. He took no care for his own comfort, but laid down his life for the well-being and the joy of all of God’s children.
Jesus was the example whereby each of us should pattern our own lives. In following the example of Jesus to love and serve God’s children selflessly, each of us gains the possibility to have “the image of God engraven upon [our] countenances” (Alma 5:19) and, in effect, truly become more like him. In an article in the April 1973 issue of the New Era, we read, “By freely giving his life, Christ, and Christ alone, atoned for all mankind. We have the opportunity of aiding others to accept his love and his sacrifice—the gift of the atonement—and thereby aid in the work of exalting the human family, becoming saviors on Mount Zion…To become as God is, we must learn to give freely, to love freely, to be willing to suffer even the humiliation and sorrow of seeing our love rejected—willing to love all as God loves us, unconditionally, throughout eternity.”
If this is true, those who serve as full-time missionaries have the opportunity not only to be blessed with the happiness of bringing the gospel to others, but they also are placed at the brink of being made into new creatures—like the Savior himself. These missionaries, when they truly give themselves to such complete and dedicated selfless service, are privy to so much of light of Christ that those taught by them can feel the love of the Savior as if He were indeed present, wrapping His arms around them and calling them to return home. I know this is true, because I have experienced it. These moments are my most cherished memories.
But, I believe, it is a faithful mission president, the man who presides over all the missionaries in one large area, who has the ability to become the most Christ-like of all. A mission president dedicates every day of his life for three years to loving and serving each one of the young missionaries, even as they are serving others. His desires are their righteous desires, and he prays fervently day and night for opportunities to help them succeed.
A few weeks ago, I stood and embraced the man who served as my own mission president in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He had just returned home, and though his eyelids sagged with exhaustion, his smile was more radiant than ever. It has been two full years since I returned home, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I have lost a great deal of the light that I was blessed with while serving. It’s funny; I thought I’d be able to hang onto it forever. But the truth is that the more concerned with self we become, the less like Christ we are. And since I am no longer a missionary, it is much harder for my focus to be outside myself. Life is hard. I’ve faced a lot of pains and sorrows of my own. But standing there, hugging the man that we Wisconsin missionaries had nick-named ‘Papa Bear,’ I felt warmth and peace course through my body and my soul. In that instant, the love of the Savior was made evident through this man who had served me and so many others so very diligently. This pure love coursed through me with a sense of power that I had not felt in a long time. Tears sprang to my eyes, and I said a silent prayer of gratitude to my Heavenly Father for blessing me with the love of such a faithful man.
Missionary work is powerful. I truly believe that it is a tool which, if utilized, can make us all more like the One who created us, our Savior, even Jesus Christ.