“I know i just have to thank the lord, work the hardest i can, and everything will be alright.”
This statement appears on the latest installment of a missionary blog. It’s hard to believe that I used to agree with him: trust in the Lord, word my butt off, and everything will be all right.
The problem is that when things don’t go right it must have been one of two things:
- We weren’t trusting/thankful enough.
- We weren’t working hard enough.
Typically we believed the latter, and that’s pretty much how our leaders interpreted things. I remember having F. Burton Howard of the Seventy rail on us because we weren’t working hard enough. I was working as hard as I could (and was thankful for the privilege), and yet according to him, it wasn’t enough. My companion and I went home nearly in tears that night partly because we couldn’t figure out how to work harder than we already were working, but mostly because we thought he was right: we weren’t good enough missionaries, or the Lord would be blessing us more than He was.
I’ve often wondered if the constant berating of church members as inadequate (witness Bednar’s talk yesterday about how people are foisting their missionary responsibility off on the missionaries) is intentional. Do they really think that making people feel guilty and inadequate is an effective motivator?
Maybe it’s a reflection of how they feel about themselves and their role in God’s kingdom. As missionary work slows every year and more people exit, it has to be discouraging for apostles and prophets to see their work producing so little. Maybe they see themselves as not working hard enough or not trusting the Lord as much as they should, so perhaps if they push the rest of us to be as motivated as they want to be, things will change.
Or maybe the Lord is just testing His church. Whatever it is, I suspect our young missionary friend will be disappointed in the end. He’ll work his butt off, thank God every day for His blessings, and yet the work in Ohio will go as slowly as ever. And then will come the time for him to beat himself up. I don’t have to be a prophet to know that it’s coming.
So, for now, all I can do is send best wishes his way and hope that he realizes that it’s not his fault when things go badly. I doubt very much he’ll ever understand that.