This is the first letter I wrote to my sixth son, the seventh missionary child I dropped off at the MTC.
September 29, 2000
I keep thinking I ought to get you up for scriptures or to leave the front door unlocked at night because you arent home yet. The conditioning of years will not be erased quickly. But when I remember where you are, I know that getting up for scripture study will be the least of your problems for the next couple of years, and perhaps for the rest of your life.
Still, in moments of inattention, it still feels like you ought to be in that front bedroom or out with your friends. Well, you will a part of us, though far from us, for the next couple of years. You will be in every prayer we pray and in every missionary thought we think. It will be wonderful!
When we were together last, I tried to say something about your mission, but I couldnt get the thoughts to come out right. Ill try again now.
Nephi uses two words to describe those who do what you are doing. They are both “B” words, and they carry a great deal of meaning. They are in the following verse.
“And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be” (1 Nephi 13:37, emphasis added).
The first word is blessed. I have this sensethis visionof you, armed with the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), which is the power of the Holy Ghost, going into battle with Lucifer for the souls of your brothers and sisters who are the children of your Father. How blessed you are! What a remarkable thing it is that God would entrust you and so many like you with the only medicine in the universe that can counteract a disease that without this remedy would be 100% fatal. Paul said,
“But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God . . .” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).
You have been “put in trust” with the Gospel, and the reality is that you must do your job in the very best way you can possibly do it. You must do it the way God wants you to do it. You must demonstrate that you deserve that trust. Those whose hearts and homes you are allowed to visit with this message must be taught by one who is as well-prepared as it is possible for him to be. And, as Nephi tells us, this is not a warning; it is a blessing. “How blessed are they” who seek to do this work in this day. I hope you will thank the Father every day of your mission for this trustthis blessing that he has given you.
The other word is beautiful. “How beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.” Does Puerto Rico have mountains? It does not matter. Those who publish peacethat is, the gospel of peace with its tidings of great joyare beautiful. Isaiah says that their feet are beautiful. They are beautiful to the Lord and to his servants who preside over this kingdom, and to those whose lives are eternally changed by the power of their message.
Have you ever noticed that this passage from which this concept comes is at the heart of one of the questions the wicked priests asked Abinadi? Of course the priests asked him a lot of questions, but he “withstood all their questions, yea, to their astonishment . . . he did withstand them in all their questions, and did confound them in all their words” (Mosiah 12:19).
But of all those questions, Mormon recorded only one.
“What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth; Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion; Break forth into joy; sing together ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem; The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God?” (Mosiah 12:20-24).
I suppose that with this question and quotation, the priests of Noah meant to implicate Abinadi. His message to them and their people did not follow the pattern of these verses. Abinadis warning did not contain many good tidings, nor much peace. No one who heard him was singing or breaking forth into joy. No one was being comforted, at least not in the beginning. But that question about beautiful feet and the message of the atonement forms the foundation of the next three chapters of the Book of Mormon. This is the image Nephi uses in 1 Nephi 13 when he speaks of the blessings of those who establish Zion and the beauty of the messengers who proclaim the gospel of peace.
In ancient times, messages were carried by runners who raced between leaders or cities with important communications.
“In 490 BC the Athenians had miraculously defeated a much stronger force of invading Persians on the Plains of Marathon. Pheidippides was selected to carry the good news back to Athens. The fleet runner ran the grueling 25 miles as fast as he could. Upon reaching the walls of the Acropolis. Pheidippides cried out, Rejoice, we conquer! and promptly fell dead” [Webster’s Word Histories, Miriam-Webster, Inc., 1989, p. 291].
When the dispatches such runners carried contained great news, as in the historical note above, people rejoiced at their arrival.
“Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem” (Isaiah 52:8 – 9).
Those who run with the message of the atonement carry the best news ever carried. They carry it in their head and their heart, but they carry it with their feet . . .
Your feet are an ICON. Every night when you take off your shoes and every morning when you put them on, look at your feet and ask yourself, “Are they beautiful?” How terrifying it would be to examine your feet and realize that they are ugly, and that you have missed opportunities to share the most important message in the world. But if you are carrying the message in the way the Lord has asked you to, your feet will always be beautiful. And Abinadi includes you and those like you in his description of those who have beautiful feet.
“And these are they who have published peace, who have brought good tidings of good, who have published salvation; and said unto Zion: Thy God reigneth! And O how beautiful upon the mountains were their feet! And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that are still publishing peace! And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who shall hereafter publish peace, yea, from this time henceforth and forever!” (Mosiah 15:13-17, emphasis added).
I guess that final phrase would include you and all the rest of us.