The Bar

Reading: “The Greatest Generation of Missionaries,” M. Russell Ballard, Liahona, November 2002

In November 2002 Elder Ballard gave the famous talk that “rose the bar” for missionaries.  Essentially, in his talk he told the young men of the church that they must be better prepared for their missionary service.  And, he instructed bishops to only recommend young men (and women) for service who they felt were truly prepared for the call.  And, indeed, after this talk the standards for missionary service were raised and many who may have gone on missions unprepared before simply no longer were called to missionary work.

It is my opinion (after reading this article) that every person who wants to serve a mission should read this talk closely.  It is a forthright challenge to the young men of this church to rise up to a higher standard.  It covers all the necessities, in my opinion, of missionary preparation.

One thing I wanted to do was to make a quick list of all the descriptions Elder Ballard uses of a prepared missionary.

  • Worthy
  • Qualified
  • Spiritually energized
  • Meticulously obedient
  • Faithful
  • Exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity (Alma 53:20)
  • True at all times
  • Vibrant
  • Thinking
  • Passionate
  • Know how to listen and follow the spirit
  • Clean from sin
  • Honest
  • Solid testimony of the restored gospel
  • Hard working
  • Covenant makers
  • Covenant keepers

Sometimes people like to share stories about how much missionaries were changed by their mission, with he message being that it could change an unprepared, less that faithful young man into a strong young man.  Elder Ballard comes out and says that is not right, that missionaries should be prepared before they leave for their missions.

We don’t need spiritually weak and semicommitted young men. We don’t need you to just fill a position; we need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate missionaries who know how to listen to and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t a time for spiritual weaklings. We cannot send you on a mission to be reactivated, reformed, or to receive a testimony. We just don’t have time for that. We need you to be filled with “faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 4:5).

When I first thought of what I would talk about in preparing for a mission, a list of things came to my mind, such as regular scripture study, or getting up early, or things like that.  As I am reading these talks, though, I am realizing that prepartion should be deeper – it should involve your whole heart and soul.

I found Elder Ballard’s talk to be very energizing.  I love to make lists.  I have an analytical mind and writing things down in lists helps me get a grip on things that otherwise seem to big or too hazy to understand.  However, it is clear from both Elder Bednar’s and Elder Ballard’s talk that true discipleship does not come in lists.  It is about an inner transformation into the Lord’s servant.  This is just as true in my life as it is in those who are preparing for a mission.

Today I will think about what it means to become a disciple of God.  I am striving to be better all the time, of course.  But, if I were to become a true disciple of God, what would I act like?  What would I look like?  What would I think like?  How would I be different from what I am now?

What about you?  What do you perceive as the difference between just doing the right things and becoming the right person?


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