It was a beautiful Spring day in Wainuiomata, New Zealand, September 10, 1981. My companion, Elder Floyd Wihongi and I had arranged with a couple of young men in the Wainuiomata Ward for a day of missionary work. Both attended the Church College of New Zealand in Temple View and were home for school break. They weren't too sure about it, but both agreed to join us for a day.
Martin Van Ginkel and Carl Brouwer were both sixteen years old. With a lot of apprehension, they arrived at our flat at 9:30 am. Both were in white shirts and ties, and other than their hair being a tad long, looked every bit a missionary. Both were fine young men with budding testimonies of the gospel. I was very excited about the opportunity to share with these young men a day in the life of a missionary. It took a lot of courage for these young men to track in their home town. They were very nervous but willing to give it a go.
We knelt in prayer and then separated for the morning. Martin and I spent the morning knocking on doors as missionaries often do, and as is often the case, without much success in teaching the gospel. More important that morning was the conversation we had. As missionaries walk from door to door, communication is often open and personal. As we talked and shared life experiences, we found common ground in the struggles of adolescence. By the time we arrived back at the flat for lunch, we were both edified, and a bond of friendship blossomed.
We had a lunch that was typical for missionaries--easy to fix sandwiches--and then Carl and I spent a couple of hours working the afternoon. As with Martin, the struggles of being a young man trying to live the gospel were evident. Conversation was enjoyable, and friendship developed. After a couple of hours, we returned to the flat to discuss their experience as missionaries. A couple of contacts had been made for future missionary work, and, for them, the stress was over and they had survived. For me, it was an experience with two fine young men that the Spirit whispered had great futures with the Church in New Zealand.
I also felt that Satan, knowing of their strengths and potential, would viscously seek to destroy them and their faith. But quietly came the peace that the Lord loved them, cared for them, and would not let them fail in their mission on earth. While difficult days laid ahead, the love of family and the Lord would see them through and find them, in the end, victorious in obtaining their rightful abode in the Kingdom of the Father. To this day, I admire these two great young men from Wainuiomata.
As Alma taught the people of Zarahemla and encouraged them humble themselves and to repent and return to the Lord in faith and righteousness, "none were deprived of the privilege of . . . [hearing] the word of God" (Alma 6:5). Members of the Church of God were "commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God" (Alma 6:6). Today, modern prophets have asked similar of us. President Spencer W. Kimball asked that we pray for nations to open their doors to missionary work. We have seen the evidence in the world of those prayers being answered. President Hinckley has asked that we reach out to new converts and strengthen them in their new faith.
Along with "mighty prayer," thousands are serving full time missions throughout the world in "behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who [know] not God." We teach the same message that Alma taught the people of his day. "Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness. . . . And whosoever doeth this, and keepeth the commandments of God from thenceforth . . . he shall have eternal life" (Alma 7:14-16).
Alma challenged members of the Church and asked, "if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? . . . Could ye say . . . that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ . . . are ye stripped of pride? . . . stripped of envy? . . . is there one among you that doth make a mock his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions? . . . Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you. Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life: yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely" (Alma 5:26-34).
The word of God is liberal unto all, both member and non-member, and none are deprived of the privilege of assembling together to hear the word of God. (Alma 6:5) To those who are not members, we invite you to come, learn and partake of the blessings of the restored gospel. To those who are members and have lost their way, we invite you to come home and join with us again in the love and peace of His gospel. To those who consider themselves members in good standing, "can ye feel so now," can you feel the Savior's love for you and can you reach out in love and share it with those who need it in their life also? Do you deal with and serve your fellowmen as the Savior would have you do?
The Prophet Joseph taught, "Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race. This has been your feeling, and caused you to forego the pleasures of home, that you might be a blessing to others, who are candidates for immortality, but strangers to truth; and for so doing, I pray that heaven's choicest blessings may rest upon you" (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p. 330-331).
May we have the courage of a Carl and Martin in stepping out of our comfort zone to share the good news of the Gospel with those we associate with. May each of us strive to have the Spirit in our lives and so live to share His love with those around us--member and non-member alike.