With the lowering of the mission age, the Mormon Tabernacle Enquirer is doing its part to help train young men for the rigors and blessings of doing God’s work. As part of this effort, Elder Kory Anton, who is hoping to clear things up and return to the mission field very soon, offers his insights to help others prepare.
|This is how missionaries should feel|
In the mission field, just like in the rest of the world, leadership callings are how the Lord tells us and everyone else that we are righteous and that He approves of us. You can always tell the best missionaries in the very same way that you can know the most righteous men at any given time: they are the leaders. We know this because God would only call the most righteous and the best to be examples for everyone else—duh!
When the time comes that you are called to be a leader, you might feel hesitant, but rest assured, the most important principle, the very key to mission leadership, is learning to harness and encourage the self-righteousness of those you are leading. Not everyone knows this, so let me explain it carefully.
Self-righteousness is the natural feeling of joy and confidence that righteous people feel. They use their whole self to be righteous, and that “self-righteousness” makes them glowing examples to others.
It is essential that you encourage that self-righteousness if you are going to get missionaries who work hard, who are anxiously engaged, and who spend every waking (and even sleeping) minute focused on staying righteous and avoiding the devastating consequences of even the smallest flaw or oversight. Missionary training, district meetings, zone meetings, mission meetings, interviews—in every interaction you should pound home the terrible consequences of the slightest disobedience to even the most minor of rules, highlighting how exactly obedient missionaries are blessed while the disobedient are punished.
One phrase that is always helpful is this—The Lord’s High Standards. Constantly talk about the Lord’s high standards. Those standards are the rules, every one of which must be kept with exact obedience. But don’t forget the word “high.” These are high standards because they are up, heavenly, way above the earth and above what “other missionaries” might complacently accept. Self-righteous missionaries, by living by the Lord’s high standards, enjoy being higher, above, closer to God and with a better view of God’s work as well as a clear view of the lower, less righteous, and not-quite-as-accepted-by-the-Lord other missionaries.
There are other benefits, besides the inherently higher perspective and lifted up status of self-righteous missionaries, that come with emphasizing the Lord’s high standards. When you constantly emphasize the Lord’s high standards, then the missionaries you lead will feel an incredible amount of guilt, shame, and godly sorrow when they break even the smallest rule. They will know that they have fallen, and fallen far, with even the slightest deviation of the Lord’s high standards of exact obedience. Those missionaries will immediately repent and be even more anxiously engaged. They will probably be even more afraid of you, knowing in their hearts that they don’t match up with the Lord’s high standards as exemplified by mission leaders. This will encourage the respect and obedience that the Lord wants all missionaries to have towards mission leaders.
Some missionaries don’t understand the importance of harnessing and encouraging the inherent self-righteousness that obedient missionaries should have. They talk about “following the Spirit” or “living by the Spirit of the law” instead of the letter of the law. That, of course, is Satan’s way of justifying sin, and those missionaries will not have the Spirit, will not be leaders, will fail, or, if they do make it, will probably get divorced some day or have a daughter that gets pregnant out of wedlock! There is a law decreed in Heaven, and when you break even the smallest mission rule, God, who will not be mocked, will punish you! Some less-than-strictly obedient missionaries might “prosper for a time,” teaching people who seem to love the gospel and love the missionaries, but rest assured that sooner or later, they will reap the terrible consequences of their sinfulness!
Some missionaries, clearly possessed by an evil, deceitful spirit, even say that Christ was not self-righteous and that He put loving people before keeping rules. They are deceived into thinking that the self-righteous worship rules instead of God. Such missionaries are children of the evil one, have gone astray, have let go of the iron rod, wander in forbidden paths, and casually meander down broad roads instead of the straight and narrow. Such missionaries don’t have a testimony that all mission (and church) rules, policies, statements, manuals, and procedures are given by God. Such missionaries are probably secretly hippies whose spirit bodies have tattoos and whose spirit faces have beards! Satan tells them, in the same way he deceived Korihor, to claim that fear, frustration, and despair are the opposite of faith, hope, and love. They lyingly talk about Jesus’ yoke being light and that working alongside Him should be liberating and easy. But Satan rejoices in those who are at ease in Zion! Don’t let those you lead fall into those traps, or you might not have the success that other leaders see and that proves that you are a great, righteous leader.
All the best,
Elder Kory Anton
PS: if these essential tools of cultivating, encouraging, and harnessing self-righteousness seem unfamiliar, think back to a typical Standards Night from when you were a youth!