Recently I marveled at what I was witnessing at a four-day wilderness encampment in the mountains near Mount St. Helens.
Some 20 Gig Harbor leaders from the seven congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were gathered to train and inspire 44 young men who are preparing to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world as missionaries.
I was in that beautiful mountain setting to assist Brother Santos Lamas, the legendary Gig Harbor chef and volunteer, who set up a tent kitchen at the camp to serve the delicious meals the group would enjoy during the encampment.
I recognized some of the young men from my own Gig Harbor congregation who had already received calls to serve for two years: Jeremy Elliott leaving soon for Viña de Mar, Chile, and his friend Boa Saili, a convert of less than three years, called to labor in Mendoza, Argentina. I knew that Ian Wells of Fox Island had been called to the Peru Cuzco Mission, high in the Andes. This band of brothers, who had attended 6 a.m. scripture study courses together during their years at Gig Harbor High School, showed me a maturity beyond their years.
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During the four days of the camp, young men from each of the six Gig Harbor congregations took turns teaching doctrinal truths from the scriptures and bearing witness to their own convictions. This, I thought, is the future leadership of the Church. I wish that I had been as well prepared when I had gone to Brazil to serve the Lord as a young Mormon missionary myself, in what would be a life-changing experience for me.
I thought of how Jesus on a Palestinian hillside shared His incomparable gospel message, known to us as the Sermon on the Mount. Now I was on a hillside with former and current bishops and others ordained to the ministry, many having dedicated their lives in service to the Lord and His church restored to the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith. Their messages to the youth centered on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the difference it makes in the lives of those who come unto Christ and follow Him in humility and faith. That is the message these young missionaries will carry into the world.
It was the message that one of Christ’s first missionaries declared long ago to the faithful brothers at Rome.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” wrote Paul, “for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16).
In the modern church, missionary service has gone on for 186 years, and currently there are 23 young missionaries from Gig Harbor, men and women, serving throughout the world. Leaving home, family, friends, jobs, and school, they enter into the missionary work at their own expense for a period of 18 to 24 months.
They realize that they are called of God and ordained under the priesthood authority that Christ gave to His original 12 apostles when He sent them forth so long ago. Their purpose is purely unselfish. They share the light of Jesus Christ with all men and women, teaching them to repent of their sins, to pray to God in faith, knowing that their prayers will be answered now as in Biblical times.
The missionaries bear witness to the world that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that through the gift and power of the Holy Ghost each may receive this same testimony for themselves. On a hillside in a remote wilderness setting I saw the fruits of that testimony in the lives of my young friends and their inspired leaders.