Missionary Work. A Labor of Love.
In the New Testament, Jesus is asked a question:
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
In another similar situation, Jesus expounded on the far reaching definition of our neighbors with the story of the good Samaritan.
President Monson talked mentioned this of Neighbors:
Who is my neighbor? Someone asked that question, then answered it: “I don’t know his name, but his dog tramples down my flowers. His boy honks the horn and keeps me awake at night, and his children make so much noise I can’t enjoy life. But yesterday I noticed some black crepe at his window, and I knew that someone had passed away. I decided it was time I became acquainted with my neighbor.”
Let us not wait for that type of event before we become acquainted with our neighbor and show love for him or for her.
Elder Komatsu spoke of a definition of neighbors as well,
This means… that one does things for and with his neighbors. He visits the sick and the needy. He buoys up the discouraged and gives encouragement at every turn, while seeking the happiness of others.
Robert Louis Stevenson said, “If we [want to] have friends we should be rich in admiration and free from envy; rejoice greatly in the good of others; love with such generosity of heart that your love becomes a dear possession in absence or unkindness.”
Another way to think about “love thy neighbour” is to think about how treat those we care about? Think of family members or long time friends. How long would we go without stopping by to visit? Would we know their birthdays? Their children’s names? Wouldn’t we have a genuine interest in their welfare and happiness?
Brother Campbell asked me to talk on missionary work today. And I would propose that we can’t do missionary work without first gaining this love for our neighbor. I would even go so far as to say that loving our fellow brothers and sisters in the world is not a step in our goals to convert people. “Love thy neighbour” is the goal.
Look at Alma’s thoughts toward the Zoramites as he began his work, (Alma 31:35)
35 Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee.
“Their souls are precious”. As you think of people you know, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, it’s pretty easy to see those special attributes and personalities of each of them. It’s not hard to picture them and think, yes, their souls are precious.
When I was very young, maybe six or seven, I remember an experience that taught me a great lesson. My mother explained to me that an elderly woman down the street was a widow. Her husband had died and she was lonely much of the time. I was told that I needed to knock on her door and visit with her occasionally. I remember knocking on the door and meeting a nice old lady. She would invite my sister and I into her home and would always serve a small bowl of sherbet and cookies. We weren’t great conversationalists, but the treats were nice and she always had lots of questions and a few stories. She only outlived her husband by a few years, but I think she appreciated the occasional visits from my sister and I during those times of loneliness. Looking back now, I see more than at that early age, the precious soul of a neighbor.
We live among good people. The people we work with and live near, for the most part, want to do what’s right. If they can become acquainted with our lives, if they can see us in family prayer, or scripture reading, if they can share a family home evening with us, learn about how we pay tithing, obey the word of wisdom, or teach our children morality. If they can see a longer stride in doing good, they will increase their stride.
I have neighbors and co-workers who have quit, or are trying to quit smoking. Not entirely because of me, but they know that I have higher standards than that and there is a natural desire to rise or fall to the standards of those around you. Acquaintances that know I pay tithing have re-examined their charitable contributions to see if they shouldn’t give more. They hear me preach, yes, but they know I care for them and we have good relationships so I can get away with it. It’s good to have friends and neighbors that know you care about them.
But I’ll admit, it’s not easy getting to that point with people.
I was at my sister’s house in Mission Viejo a while ago. I was out front visiting with her when I noticed her neighbor across the street. He was by himself sitting on a chair with an empty chair next to him. A few minutes went by and another neighbor came out of her house, walked over, and sat down next to him. My sister explained what was happening. “Whenever he wants to talk, he brings the empty chair and one of us neighbors will sit down so he has someone to talk to”.
Wow! That’s so easy! Wouldn’t it be great if all our neighbors would just throw up a sign when they were feeling lonely, or needed help? I would love to see a sign on my neighbor’s door, “need dinner tonight”. I can do that.
Unfortunately, it’s rarely that obvious, and not as easily welcomed. It’s still up to us to determine how we can show people in our lives that they are important to us and that we care about them.
Maybe there is some talent we can share with them. Maybe a common interest that will create a bond, or maybe just kind words over longer periods of time that will eventually create a relationship. Whatever the way to show people we care, it’s a necessary action in our responsibility and opportunity to “love thy neighbour”.
I think of President Monson as a great missionary in this light. It seems that every conference talk, he has an example in his life from “a dear friend”. Members of the church or members of other denominations, President Monson seems to have deep friendships with a large number of people. Most of his stories start off with, “while I was doing this or that, I thought of a dear friend that I hadn’t visited in a while, and determined that I must make a visit or phone call…”
I’m a terrible friend from that perspective. I let old relationships fade, I let new relationships disappear when really all it would take is a simple follow up. One of my goals after preparing this talk is to take advantage of all the contacts I have with my neighbors and co-workers.
We cannot build the kingdom of God without Love. For us as members, missionary work is not a statistical probability calculation between the number of times we open our mouths and the number of people searching for truth. Missionary work for you and me has to grow from a true love and concern for the people around us.
How great shall be your joy. With that individual!
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints