By Ilyan Kei Lavanway, Moroni Channel
Rockledge Florida, USA


​A thought occurred to me regarding missionary work and how we think of success in the work. What makes any one of us a successful missionary? Is it the number of people we bring to the waters of baptism? Is it the number of people we teach? Or is there more to it than this?

​When I was a full-time missionary in Argentina, I was by no means a perfect missionary. I had distractions. I had attitude problems. I had pent up anger. Occasionally, I had difficulty respecting and obeying local authority figures, both in and out of the Church. I had a keen sense of toilet humor, and I was proud of it. And I had cats.

Nevertheless, I was worthy, despite my weaknesses and personal quirks. I had a personal relationship with Heavenly Father and with his son, Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Ghost. I knew them. I know them.

I had no doubt about the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ which I was sent to teach. I had no doubt about the power of the priesthood to bless lives. I had no doubt that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church on the earth. I knew the truth of the Book of Mormon and of the prophet Joseph Smith who translated it into English.

I had a fierce resolve to do the works I was sent to do and not just say the words. I understood that actions speak louder than words. I understood that I should forgive freely and not judge rashly. I understood that even missionaries need to apply the atonement of Jesus Christ in their daily lives.

I was hot, a soul on fire at times. I was cold, rebellious at times. Whatever I was, I was that by conscious choice, deliberately, not by accident or apathy. I was never lukewarm (see Revelation 3:15-16).

I served as best I knew how at the time. I served effectively and successfully and brought many souls into an understanding of the gospel teachings.

I spent five months in one area and had zero baptisms. During the entire two years of my mission, my efforts brought to pass only a few baptisms, and I do not know if any of them remained active in the Gospel after I finished my mission.

The success of my missionary service seemed to hinge less on the number of baptisms and  more upon the fact that I had brought many souls into an understanding of the gospel. That, I believe, includes both members and nonmembers alike.

At the end of my mission, my mission president, Paul “Hap” Green, told me he had paired me with many of the problem missionaries that no one else could get along with. He told me those same missionaries that seemed to quarrel with every other companion, worked just fine with me.

He also told me I had a childlike quality, and an ability to mold myself to accommodate whomever I was assigned to work with. He told me he was not aware of any serious problems on my part. He told me I had been a good example to many fellow missionaries and members.

I found his remarks truly encouraging. I finished my mission feeling I had indeed served effectively and successfully. I carried away the renewed understanding that success in missionary work is not measured only by the number of discussions taught or the number of baptisms performed, though such endeavors are, of course, essential in the work.

Years later, when I was set apart as an ordinance worker in the Bismark North Dakota temple when it first opened, President Dahlgren, who happened to be a Patriarch, blessed me with words too personal and precious to repeat here.

Though I will not share the details here, I can say that I received an understanding then, and in the years that followed, that many, many individuals will receive the vicarious ordinances done for them in the temples, and they will be eternally grateful to those who participated in making the ordinances available to them. I understood that temple work is missionary work.

While my efforts to bring the living to baptism may yield results few and far between, I wonder if my efforts with indexing, family history, and temple work will lead to untold multitudes receiving the Gospel and remaining faithful therein. The fruits of these labors are invisible to me during my mortal life. But, they are seen by Heavenly Father, and to be seen of Him is all that matters.

I know I will one day see the fulfillment of the promise given in Alma 26:22:

“Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing – unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.”

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