When I stop to take a moment to reflect, I’ve still not got used to the fact that in just over a week I will be a full time missionary. I still surprise myself that I have made the decision to make a sacrifice to serve in this way. I’ve come to realise that I have been preparing for this my whole life, I just didn’t know it. The way my parents raised me, the trials I’ve faced, the people I’ve met and the mistakes that I’ve made and learned from, these have all got me to where I am today. And for this I am grateful.

Since beginning my papers and receiving my call I have given a lot of thought to the type of missionary I would like to be. The more I studied the scriptures and Preach My Gospel the list got longer and longer. At times over the last couple of months I have been overwhelmed, doubting my capabilities and worried that I had set myself up for failure. I’ve always felt that I’ve been mediocre at life, that I was never quite hitting the target I was setting for myself. I’ve found it comforting to know that it’s not as complicated as I make it sometimes and the things expected of me are quite simple – to serve the Lord with all my heart, might, mind and strength.

The final verse of In the bleak mid-winter by Christina Rossetti says:

“What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.”

The heart signifies the real, inward person. It symbolises our true desires. As we give the Lord our hearts, we are showing our willingness to serve Him

Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita of the Seventy listed three things that are necessary for us to bring on our missions. 1. A desire to preach the gospel. 2. Develop your testimony. The Lord requires your “heart and a willing mind.” And 3. Love others.

Dallin H Oaks explained that it is important to not just consider how we serve but why we serve.

Some may serve in hope of earthly reward. They may serve to gain recognition or to gain prominence or power. This is service but our hearts are in the wrong place. Serving with our hearts involves bending our true desires toward serving God. And as we do this our motivations will be based on eternal reward and out of love for our Heavenly Father and Saviour.

In Moroni 7:47 we learn “Charity is the pure love of Christ.”. The Book of Mormon teaches us that this virtue is “the greatest of all.”

1 Cor. 13. The apostle Paul said:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. …

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, … and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

From this we learn that even the biggest acts of service, for example giving everything to the poor, counts for nothing unless it is motivated by the pure love of Christ – it must be done through our love for God and a love for his children. Moroni 7:48 says that we should pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart that we may be filled with love. Charity is a gift from God that we should desire. In Preach my Gospel it says “Charity like faith leads to action. You will develop charity as you look for opportunities to serve others and give of yourself.”

So how can we make sure that we are looking for opportunities to serve?

Our baptismal covenants can be found in Mosiah 18:8-10.

8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

 9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

 10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

As we strive to keep these covenants we are showing the Lord it is the desire of our hearts to serve Him through serving others. We show our love for the Lord as we keep the covenants we made and by extension our desires change to be in line with the Lord.

President David O. McKay, quoted in Preach My Gospel, said: “True Christianity is love in action. There is no better way to manifest love for God than to show an unselfish love for your fellow men. This is the spirit of missionary work.”

Do we see sharing the gospel as serving others?

If I had a friend who is struggling, maybe going through a hard time or maybe just felt they wanted something better in their lives, I might decide to serve them by buying them some chocolates. You know the big bag that says “Great for sharing” across the top? I would do this for my friend because I love them and I think that the chocolates will make them happy.

Fortunately the Gospel also comes with a “Great for sharing” label too. We may have friends who may be having a hard time who need direction in their lives. We may have friends who are already happy but who may need that extra injection of joy. We love them, so why would we want to deprive them of the thing that can give so much joy?  Preach My Gospel says that you have been a successful missionary when you love people and desire their salvation. When we love our fellowman and see them through the eyes of our Father in heaven we will desire to share the restored gospel with them so that they too can come unto Christ.

As we serve with all our heart the Lord blesses us abundantly. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes we may truly wish to serve with our whole hearts, only to feel bogged down by life’s challenges. Henry B. Eyring promises us this:

“For those who are discouraged by their circumstances and are therefore tempted to feel they cannot serve the Lord this day, I make you two promises. Hard as things seem today, they will be better in the next day if you choose to serve the Lord this day with your whole heart. Your circumstances may not be improved in all the ways which you desire. But you will have been given new strength to carry your burdens and new confidence that when your burdens become too heavy, the Lord, whom you have served, will carry what you cannot. He knows how. He prepared long ago. He suffered your infirmities and your sorrows when He was in the flesh so that He would know how to succor you”

What a wonderful promise. As we turn our hearts over to the Lord and let Him work through us, we will be blessed and have our abilities expanded many times over.