Mark Albright, president of the Washington DC South mission, has been sharing missionary moments with Meridian based on letters he has received while serving. This one is from Thomas B. Griffith who served as Senate Legal Counsel, the chief legal officer of the United States Senate, where he gave legal advice to both parties during President Clinton’s impeachment trial. After briefly returning to private practice in 1999, Judge Griffith became Assistant to the President and General Counsel of Brigham Young University in 2000, where he also served as a Stake President.
Dear President Albright,
I had the pleasure of seeing a young man I taught in our Priests’ Quorum head off for a mission today. I took the occasion to write him the attached letter giving him my advice on how to succeed as a missionary. Writing the letter brought back many great memories of an important time in our lives when we served together as missionaries in South Africa. I am excited for the adventure you are having now! Your Missionary Moments have become a staple of the Priests’ Quorum activities each Sunday in our Ward. Keep them coming!
Thomas B. Griffith
My Dear Friend,
It was good to see you today on such a happy occasion. You have many friends and admirers who are excited for your new adventure. I count myself among both groups.
You have no doubt been the recipient of much advice as the time for your mission draws near. I hope you don’t mind if I offer you even more. I spent several years teaching missionaries at the MTC how to teach the Gospel, and I have been a careful observer of missionaries over the years. What follows comes from those experiences and observations.
Keep the mission rules with exactness – even those that seem to make no sense. The Lord reserves special blessings for missionaries who are strictly obedient. Few are. Be one who is. This commitment to obedience will cause you moments of awkwardness with companions, other missionaries, investigators, and members, but stick to your guns.
Set your goals high and never lower them. Over the next few months, the Lord will give you insights into the type of missionary you can become. Set your goals based on those insights and never let anyone cause you to lower them. Only let others inspire you to raise them.
Don’t socialize with young women in the ward. This is a tough one because the young women will want to befriend you, but it is vitally important to keep your distance. Priesthood leaders and members are watching carefully, and they will not entrust the teaching of their non-member family and friends to missionaries who socialize with young women. Spend your time at church with the Aaronic Priesthood youth. They need your friendship and example.
Express your love to the people you teach. It really is true that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. The Holy Ghost will accompany your genuine expressions of love.
Teach people what you learned in Primary and Family Home Evening. There is a God who is our Father. His Son is our Savior. They love and care for us and have created a world where we can learn to love as they do. They have re-established Christ’s church on the earth to prepare the world for His return. That church is directed by prophets and apostles. You will find that few people who are good prospects to accept the Restored Gospel care a great deal about the finer doctrinal points of such matters as the nature of the Trinity, whether salvation is a matter of grace or merits, or the prospects of theosis.
Pray constantly and record the impressions that come. Fill your prayer life with expressions of gratitude and requests to know who you can help and how you can help them. Write down the thoughts that come to you. They come from the Lord.
The Atonement of Christ is the focal point of all creation and your life. Search for the Atonement, and you will find it. Teach people what you find. The deepest human yearnings are to be forgiven our mistakes and be reconciled to God, family, and others. You will have the sacred opportunity to help people understand how these miracles can occur. Study the four Gospels over and over again throughout your mission. With each reading, you will come to know the Savior more deeply.
So my young friend, to borrow the words of Ulysses as imagined by Tennyson, “Push off, and sitting well in order smite the sounding furrows.” I will look forward to seeing you in two years.
Thomas B. Griffith