The Lord expects every worthy male to serve a mission. He said, "And this gospel shall be preached unto every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. And the servants of God shall go forth, saying with a loud voice: Fear God and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment is come" (D&C 133:37-38).
Why does the Lord place so much importance on missionary work? He tells us, "And that every man should take righteousness in his hands and faithfulness upon his loins, and lift a warning voice unto the inhabitants of the earth; and declare both by word and by flight that desolation shall come upon the wicked" (D&C 63:37).
Did you note that he said "every man"? By that he also meant every boy who is becoming a man. President Gordon B. Hinckley clarified that point when he said, "Missionary work is essentially a priesthood responsibility. As such, our young men must carry the major burden. This is their responsibility and their obligation" ("Some Thoughts on Temples, Retention of Converts, and Missionary Service," Ensign, November 1997, 52).
Two decades earlier President Spencer W. Kimball declared, "Should every young man fill a mission? And the answer of the Church is yes, and the answer of the Lord is yes. Enlarging this answer we say: Certainly every male member of the Church should fill a mission" ("Planning for a Full and Abundant Life," Ensign, May 1974, 87).
The Lord wants every worthy male to serve a mission because that is the way the gospel can reach people all over the world. We could make a big megaphone and shout our message to the world from Salt Lake City, but what would that accomplish? We already do that with general conference. Church broadcasts reach around the globe, but broadcasts don't replace missionaries. The Lord not only wants people to hear the gospel but also to grow in the gospel.
The Lord gave us the reason that missionary work is so important. He said: "Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord. . . . But purify your hearts before me; and then go ye into all the world, and preach my gospel unto every creature who has not received it; and he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not, and is not baptized, shall be damned" (D&C 112:24, 28-29).
We must proclaim the gospel so that the world will have the opportunity to be saved when Christ comes. Many people are waiting for the gospel to be preached to them. But gospel preaching alone will not save them. They must be baptized and confirmed members of the Church. They must receive the priesthood and go to the temple to receive their endowment. They must be married in the temple for time and all eternity. They must serve their fellow Saints and endure to the end. All of this cannot happen unless missionaries go to every nation and live among the people they serve.
God expects his covenant people to warn his children of the Second Coming and help them prepare for it. Those young men who do not serve missions--leaving their duties undone and ignoring their priesthood responsibilities--may actually be breaking a covenant (D&C 84:33- 41).
President Kimball said, "Declining to serve when called may constitute a sin of omission as well as one of commission. Certainly it is a sin of omission to accept responsibility, to covenant with the Lord, and then fail to do the work as well as possible. . . . One breaks the priesthood covenant by transgressing commandments--but also by leaving undone his duties. Accordingly, to break this covenant one needs only to do nothing" (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 95-96).
President John Taylor said, "If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those whom you might have saved had you done your duty" (in Journal of Discourses, 20:23-24). God loves his children, and it's up to us to help bring them to Christ.
So what about those nations whose doors are closed to missionary work? Before the Lord comes in his glory, you will see those doors open. Even now the Lord is causing great miracles to take place that will open those doors. Hearts are being softened and missionaries are needed to fill the world. Look at this wonderful example by Elder Earl C. Tingey of how miracles are taking place today to allow the gospel to be preached to all the world:
A dozen years ago, in one of the countries of Africa, we had faithful members of the Church who had been meeting in their homes for several years. I went to that country to see if we could receive permission from the government to bring in missionaries and establish the Church. I met with a high-ranking government minister. He gave me 20 minutes to explain our position.The Lord's work will march on. Faithful missionaries will serve. Thousands will join the Church because of their efforts. And miracles will be performed as nations allow the Lord's Church to blossom on their soil. It will happen. It is happening.
When I finished, he said, "I do not see where anything you have told me is any different from what is currently available in our country. I see no reason to approve your request to bring missionaries into our country."
He stood up to usher me out of his office. I was panic-stricken. I had failed. In a moment our meeting would be over. What could I do? I offered a silent prayer.
Then I had an inspired thought. I said to the minister, "Sir, if you will give me five more minutes, I would like to share one other thought with you. Then I will leave." He kindly consented.
I reached for my wallet and removed this small For the Strength of Youth booklet, which I have always carried.
I said, "This is a little booklet of standards we give all of the youth in our Church."
I then read some of the standards. . . . When I finished, he said, "You mean to tell me you expect the youth of your church to live these standards?"
"Yes," I replied, "and they do."
"That is amazing," he said. "Could you send me some of these booklets so that I could distribute them to the youth of my church?"
I replied, "Yes," and I did. Several months later we received official approval from the government of that country to come and establish the Church.("For the Strength of Youth," Ensign, May 2004, 50)
Don't allow yourself to watch from a distance. Be a part of the army whose general is the Lord himself. Serve a mission. The Lord needs you, and you need the experience, wisdom, faith, and endurance that come from serving a mission. Because of the growth that comes from serving the Lord selflessly for two years, a mission can prepare you for the Second Coming like no other experience can.