Pure Motives

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The Making of a Missionary

When the Lord first chastised Cain, he did so not because Cain had failed to offer up a sacrifice, but rather because his motives for offering the sacrifice were impure. Cain was following the counsel of Satan and not that of the Lord.

Today Satan offers counsel to the Lord's appointed ministers in the same way that he did to Cain. He does so in order to confuse them and render their efforts useless. If constant vigilance is not maintained, the end results can be disastrous. Such was the case of Elder Brown.

Elder Brown telephoned my home very late in the evening. He obviously was deeply troubled and wanted to see me. He had decided that he wanted to leave the mission and return home.

When he and his companion finally reached my home around midnight, he was behaving much like a caged animal. He paced back and forth across the room in an endless search for something he could not identify. He seemed almost possessed. After some preliminary talking to allow him some release of the tension he was feeling, we had prayer together. He then unfolded the events which had led him to my door in a fit of confused emotion.

Elder Brown was basically a fine missionary. He had searched the scriptures well in order to learn more about the power of faith. It was his desire to baptize converts. When he prayed, he prayed with fervor and zeal that he would be led to the doors of the Lord's elect.

That eventful night as he and his senior companion left their apartment he felt strongly impressed in a direct and powerful way to go to a certain home. His senior companion informed him that he did not have the same impressions, but if it was his desire to go to that home, he would accompany him. As they went forth, Elder Brown, in an attempt to fortify his faith, repeated over and over in his mind, I know this family will be waiting for us to arrive and will immediately ask for baptism. He had heard of similar happenings. He felt that it was now going to be his opportunity for that experience. His desire carried him to an emotional state he had never before experienced. He was certain that a miracle was soon to be his.

When they arrived at the home, he rushed forward to knock. Time seemed endless. Why were the people not at the door ready to receive them? They knocked again and waited. They knocked a third and fourth time. It was his companion's voice that brought him to the cold reality of the situation.

"I guess they're not home, Elder," he said.

The next few moments were filled with confusion as Elder Brown tried relentlessly to reconstruct the feelings which had led them there. The harder he tried, the more confused he became. He had read of faith and of other missionaries being led to the doors of the honest in heart. He recalled his own promptings and how they had only led him to an empty house. Could it be that there was no such thing as faith? And if faith did not exist, then what about God? If God did not exist, then why was he on a mission? His mixed-up logic coupled with his internal feelings of confusion led him to his second major decision in one short evening. He decided that he should leave the mission field and go home. It was at that point that he telephoned me.

By the time he had reached the mission home, he was in a complete jumble of confusion and was nearer to following the promptings of the adversary than those of his companion or the Spirit of truth. Finally, after fervant prayer, the spirit of peace and tranquility joined us and we were able to reconstruct not only what had happened, but more importantly why it had happened.

Why did Elder Brown receive the wrong feelings? What was it that led him to his erroneous conclusion? In retrospect the end result became obvious. Elder Brown desired to have a miracle. He wanted the Lord to tell him exactly where an elect family was waiting exclusively for him. Without realizing it, his motives had become more centered on his own glory and had become less and less pure.

In his increasing desire to be the recipient of divine revelation, he had pushed into the background the main purpose for bringing souls to the Lord. His prominent, over-riding desire was to receive—not to give.

The Lord could not respond to those impure motives, but Satan could. It was a simple matter for the adversary to suggest to his mind that a particular family was waiting just for him. In that moment he had, in effect, received his revelation. The elder jumped for the bait, thus adding more fuel to his misguided motive; and by the time he arrived at his destination, he had been completely deceived.

The next series of events was equally easy for Satan to promote. Frustration, confusion, and anger quickly developed into a climax of doubt. Elder Brown doubted prayer. He doubted faith. He even doubted his God for a moment. He certainly doubted his own divine calling as a representative of the Lord. Like Peter of old, Elder Brown saw the angry "waves" around him and started to sink in the "waters of despair." The design of the evil one was nearly complete. In fact, were it not for the Spirit's intervention, Elder Brown may have terminated his mission early, breaking the hearts of his parents and loved ones and failing to teach those who were waiting for him.

It is worthy of note that when Elder Brown announced to his senior companion his desire to visit a particular family, the response was negative. The companion flatly stated, "I do not have the same feelings." At this point, it would have been appropriate for the senior companion to suggest prayer as the logical recourse to unite their feelings. He failed to do so, probably fearing that he might dispel his younger companion's enthusiasm for missionary work. Within his reach he had a marvelous opportunity to teach companionship prayer and its importance, the importance of companionship unity, pure motives, and correct principles of faith. But he failed to capitalize on the occasion.

Elder Brown did not notice that his motives were not entirely pure until the entire episode had happened. He was then able to view in retrospect how the adversary had tricked him. Since he did not clearly understand the law of having pure motives or the conditions contained therein, he was vulnerable. Had Elder Brown examined his own areas of weakness earlier, he could have effectively prepared himself against the onslaught. It is essential to successful missionary work to understand that to have pure motives is to be pure in heart:

The pure in heart are those who are free from moral defilement or guilt; who have bridled their passions, put off the natural man and become saints through the atonement (Mosiah 3:19); who have been born again, becoming the sons and daughters of Christ (Mosiah 5:17); who are walking in paths of uprightness and virtue and seeking to do all things that further the interests of the Lord's earthly kingdom. (Mormon Doctrine, p. 612.)

The Lord said, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8.) He later indicated through Joseph Smith that most of the Saints could not yet be classed among the pure in heart (D&C 88:74). What better time and place is there to become pure in heart than the mission field? The steps to that goal are compatible with full-time missionary work. Missionaries must free themselves from moral defilement, or else they cannot serve. They must thrust aside the natural man through daily thought control and scripture study. Their paths must be straight. If they are to be successful, they must seek to do all things that would further the building up of the Lord's kingdom. The promise from the Lord to those who achieve these things is that they will be saved in his kingdom (D&C 124:54; 131:8). His holy invitation is extended to his ordained ministers of his gospel. The acceptance of his beckoning call to become totally pure in heart is to enter into those conditions which teach, train, and fortify one against Satan's attacks. It is a glorious opportunity which should not be lost. It requires only desire and effort. The Lord provides the rest.

From the book: The Making of a Missionary