Faithfulness to the Lord


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From the Book "Making of a Missionary"

The apostle Paul reminds us that "it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." (1 Corin. 4:2; emphasis added.) If the question "Faithful to whom?" were posed, all would respond, "Faithful to the Lord!" It would never occur to the mind of any missionary to pledge allegiance or to show loyalty to a wicked and sinful purpose. Nevertheless, if there is any single recurring and grave problem in the mission field, it is expressly that. For example, if a missionary commits some infraction of conduct, his companion, who is usually aware of the error, often fails to register righteous concern strongly enough to either stop the ill-conceived action or detain it long enough for assistance to arrive from his mission president or other mission leaders. By so doing the companion becomes faithful to the sin and the sinner and thus becomes a co-conspirator. The Lord has said:

How oft you have...gone on in the persuasions of men. For behold, you should not have feared man more than God...You should have been faithful. (D&C 3:6,7,8; Emphasis added.)

The key words pronounced in this passage denote a negative "You should not have feared man" and a positive "You should have been faithful."

Fear is the opposite of faith. The missionary who does not persuade his companion toward righteousness fails to do so, generally speaking, because of fear. He fears that his companion will become angry with him and that he will become the subject of his companion's and other missionaries' ridicule.

How many missionaries could have been saved from severance from the kingdom if the companion had said, "Elder, that is wrong! You know it, and I know it, so let's get back on track!" Most of the time a simple unwavering statement immediately issued forth at the suggestion of sin is sufficient to turn the direction of a misdirected companion. If the wayward missionary fails to yield, then the companion should relentlessly pursue to the point of seeking clarification of the issue from the district leader, the zone leader, or the president himself. If the issue has potentially grievous consequences, he should not fear to inform his president. In doing so he is faithful to his stewardship and is promoting righteousness. He is not to follow his companion into sin; rather, he is to lead him away from it. He must not wait until his companion is weeping the bitter tears of regret and facing the relentless weight of sinful actions, or he will come to the bitter realization that all might have been avoided if he had but been faithful to his charge and said no!

To often when a proposed improper action meets with no resistance, it signifies a tacit agreement to join in. Agreeing to a seemingly harmless relaxation of the rules leads logically to additional rationalizations. Finally, that which never would have been considered in the beginning becomes accepted practice, leading to the bitter consequences of starting down the wrong path. It reaches out involvingly—taking in first one and then another, until little by little its web entangles not just one but many. That subtle process twists the intent of good missionaries and creates instead a totally distinct situation.

What happened to Elder Berry is a good example.

Elder Berry was an extraordinary missionary. He seemed to have a special ability to find, reach, and baptize the Lord's elect. By nature he was affirmative and endowed with what seemed to be an abundance of enthusiasm. Because of these gifts, he tended to give less credence to what he perceived to be the letter of the law. He openly expressed his view that mission rules were to help the missionary gain the ability to find, teach, and baptize. If that main objective was obtained, then the rest could be disregarded. He argued that, in effect, all of the rules were preparatory in nature and when the purpose was fulfilled, the rules could be appropriately disregarded. He reasoned that the rules must be superfluous for the "mature missionary" like himself.

To some, his logic seemed flawless. After all, Wilford Woodruff and other great missionaries of the past did not have today's mission rules, and they were successful. Soon others were convinced of the soundness of the proposition, and without a draft of constitution or bylaws there evolved a new organization—a small elite "club" within the mission for the "mature missionaries" only (those who had "superior wisdom and understanding"). It was heralded by its members as a step beyond the Lord's "normal" mission. It allowed special privileges to "superior" missionaries. They did not have to pay attention to the rules. They were above them.

Contrary to what had been originally intended by our gifted missionary, membership in the "elitist" group became dependent upon the missionary's willingness to attend an occasional movie, get up late, get out to work late, and so forth. Satan changed the rules to cater to the weak. He flattered their egos with thoughts of being superior while, in truth, their actions were inferior. He soothed their God-given conscience with the balm of false reasoning. They did not have the same responsibility to keep the "little mission rules," because the rules were to teach new missionaries the letter of the law until they too could live by the "spirit of the law."

Fortunately for that mission and for those missionaries, the mission president was brought to an awareness of this development by a faithful missionary, and a righteous path was soon re-established. It is worthy of note that the majority of the missionaries involved in this episode were merely followers. They had followed as lambs to the slaughter so as not to create problems with their companions and with others. Unknown to them, their companions often had similar feelings, each thinking it was the desire of the other. All followed the group so as not to appear to be the dissenter. The tragedy of this case could have been avoided if one missionary had stood tall, took the Lord's affirmative, and unwaveringly decried the issue as false and dangerous.

A true leader is one who strides forward, signaling the correct road while all others appear to be eager to be misled. It is not so much a question of judgment. Virtually every missionary knows when he is doing wrong. Rather, it is a question of courage. Be a leader. Stand up and be counted should the occasion demand it. Be faithful to the Lord.

Faithfulness runs vertically from the missionary to our Heavenly Father. It does not run horizontally to a missionary's companion or to other missionaries. One cannot be faithful to the Lord and unfaithful to his companion at the same time. If a missionary does what the Lord would have him do, the companionship will always be assisted. There is nothing that can be classified as faithful to the Lord and damaging to the companion. But to be faithful to the desires of a wayward companion and totally unfaithful to the Lord is entirely possible.

Centuries ago Cain defensively responded to the Lord's inquiry regarding his brother Abel. "Am I my brother's keeper?" he asked. The Lord could have answered in the affirmative, "Yes, you are." Suppose a missionary went astray and the Lord were to ask his companion, "Missionary, where is thy companion?" and he received the response, "I don't know. Am I my companion's keeper?" Would the Lord be any more pleased with that reply than he was with Cain's?

A missionary is his companion's keeper. Each is to keep his companion safe from harm, be it physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional. If a missionary would not hesitate to physically pull his companion from dangerous oncoming traffic, then why would he hesitate to pull his companionto spiritual safety when oncoming temptations are about to crash into him? Is the soul of any less worth than the body? Does a missionary care less for the spiritual than the physical salvation of his companion?

Problems like this occur because the missionary has been conditioned to believe that acts of others are not his business. He lacks courage to take the first eventful step in assisting. The youth today are conditioned not to disclose incriminating information. They refer to it with negative expressions such as "ratting," squealing," and "narking." They don't use more appropriate terms such as "keeper," helper," or "being a loving and caring brother or sister." These terms are the ones which, in honesty, should be employed when a missionary saves his companion from the jaws of Satan by informing the mission president.

Logically, reconditioning the missionary's thinking is needed. Every newly called missionary should contemplate in advance what he would do if his companion were tempted to put his own salvation in jeopardy. To assist the missionary in this thinking, here are three proven guidelines which may appropriately be followed:

1. Have a firm attitude and an unwavering commitment to be faithful to the Lord.

3. Request clarification of the disputed rule from the district or zone leader.

3. Firmly indicate to the wayward companion that he should immediately speak with the mission president about the issue—or you will. Contemplated serious misbehavior or sin should never be left suspended. It must be taken care of at once.

Concerning this issue, President Spencer W. Kimball stated to a group of missionaries in South America in 1967:

"In one mission I came across a bad situation. One or two missionaries had been breaking the rules. All they did was go over to a certain home every Sunday night for dinner. The president didn't know anything about it. It wasn't perceived as anything very serious, but it was a regular occurrence every week. After a little while, these missionaries were bringing others to this home, and pretty soon they were doing a little flirting. The next thing we knew, there had to be an excommunication.

I went there, and everything was revealed. I found that although there was only one boy who had actually gone to the extreme wherein he had to be excommunicated, there were about eighteen missionaries in the area who had followed like sheep over the ledge. They had not intended to do any- thing wrong. They had just followed the leadership. At first they had gone there only for meals, but then became engaged in a little flirtations—not too deeply.

But the thing is that there were eighteen missionaries who knew that one had gone too far. They knew that he had been necking and petting, but not one of them would ever tell! When I interviewed them, I asked, 'Why didn't you tell the president that conditions were bad?' One of them said, 'Well, that's none of my business! That elder can do as he pleases! If he wants to wreck his mission, that's okay with me. It's his business. It's his mission! If he wants to ruin his life, that's up to him. It's his life!' And then I said to these elders, 'Well, what about your missions? Isn't this your mission too? Isn't this your Church too? Are you willing to let one person do more damage than you can repair? Are you willing to have some nullify all that you've done here? You've spent twenty months down here, elders, and you have been working reasonably hard, and at times you have done remarkably good work. Are you willing to permit that one scandal to neutralize all that you've done—all of your efforts? That's what happens! Are you willing to do that?'

He said, 'Well, I hadn't thought of it like that.' Do you think that you have a loyalty? Where are your loyalties? Are you loyal to yourself? Are you loyal to your companion? Are you willing to let him go on and on and on, until he breaks his neck? When he was excommunicated, it was a sad day in that mission because he was potentially a fine young man. All the missionaries loved him, and some of them were weeping that day. I remember! Some of them were weep- ing tears! Their brother was being excommunicated from the Church and sent home in disgrace! And then I said to them, 'Elders, do you know who excommunicated this boy? Not me. Not your president. not the Elders' Court. It was you! You excommunicated your brother! How?

Well, if you would have gone to this boy when you saw him breaking mission rules and said, 'Elder, let's not do that! That disrupts our whole program. We all lose spirituality when things like this happen.' Now suppose that he didn't yield and you said to him again, 'Elder, you shouldn't do that! We can't be doing those kinds of things!' And then suppose you'd gone a third time and said, 'Elder, I'm sorry, but if you don't desist I'm going to have to report to the mission president, because I'm not going to let you destroy yourself! I think too much of you! I'm not going to let you destroy this mission! I think too much of it. I'm not going to let you destroy my work! I've worked too hard to have it all go to the wind! I'm going to tell the president, not as a tattle-tale, but I'm going to report to the president so that he can protect the whole program, if you don't desist!' You see, there is nothing ugly about that, is there?

That's the way it should be, because our loyalty is first to the Lord, then to the Church, the mission, and the world.'"

Logic, intelligence, and Spirit unite to give witness to our prophet's words. To do less than what he requests is to be a traitor to the sacred missionary call. Each ordained missionary should give heed and plan accordingly to be prepared to act in full accord with what the prophet has said. A companion's salvation could be at stake.

So think ahead, in case such a situation should ever face you. To be prepared is to be successful.