Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Light In Their Eyes


"I recently recalled a historic meeting in Jerusalem about 17 years ago. It was regarding the lease for the land on which the Brigham Young University’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies was later built. Before this lease could be signed, President Ezra Taft Benson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, then president of Brigham Young University, agreed with the Israeli government on behalf of the Church and the university not to proselyte in Israel. You might wonder why we agreed not to proselyte. We were required to do so in order to get the building permit to build that magnificent building which stands in the historic city of Jerusalem. To our knowledge the Church and BYU have scrupulously and honorably kept that non-proselyting commitment. After the lease had been signed, one of our friends insightfully remarked, 'Oh, we know that you are not going to proselyte, but what are you going to do about the light that is in their eyes?'"

This story shared by Elder James Faust is one of my very favorites. I told it so many times when my husband served as the Mission President in Boston, I think our missionaries knew it by heart. I still remember having a hard time--every time I said it-- making it through that last line without my voice breaking. The idea that these members of the Church in Israel were preaching the gospel without words--simply through the purity and goodness that shone forth from their eyes--is one of the sweetest things I have ever heard. And seeing that same light in the eyes of the missionaries was such a testimony building experience for me. Sitting on the stand at zone conferences, I always wished that every mother of every missionary there could have such an opportunity, to sit on the stand and look in their missionary child's face and see that light spoken of by Elder Faust. It was unmistakable. It was overwhelming. It was a purity and a power that comes from devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And it always moved me to tears.

Missions are hard. And that fact might just be the best kept secret in the Church. The days and weeks and months can be long and most missionaries are pushing through the experience with every bit of willpower they can muster--wanting so badly to be successful and complete the 2-year (or 18-month) assignment given to them. Honestly, I often wonder how they do it--where they get the strength to face the challenges of leaving their homes and families, entering a "missionary" world they know nothing about, and waking up every day being willing to pour all of their energy into this work. To face the things they face and to hang in there long enough to adjust to the challenges and then to experience such incredible personal growth--is nothing short of amazing. After watching six sons survive the experience of a mission and hundreds of missionaries who served with us in Boston do the same, I am convinced of one thing: it is that light--the light that burns in their hearts and shines forth from their eyes--that carries them through. Without it, serving a mission would be an impossible task. But with it, all things are possible.