In June of 1837, the Prophet Joseph Smith called Heber C. Kimball, an Apostle, to go on a mission to England. Elder Kimball’s call came as the two sat in the Kirtland Temple and Joseph spoke with divine authority: “Brother Heber, the Spirit of the Lord has whispered to me, ‘Let my servant Heber go to England and proclaim my gospel and open the door of salvation to that nation’” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 327).
That whispering of the Spirit is an example of how the call comes to servants of the Lord to send missionaries to their fields of labor. . . .
After finishing our mission assignment, I was called by President Gordon B. Hinckley to serve as a Seventy in the Church. Part of my early training as a new General Authority included an opportunity to sit with members of the Twelve as they assigned missionaries to serve in one of the hundreds of missions of this great Church.
With the encouragement and permission of President Henry B. Eyring, I would like to relate an experience, very special to me, which I had with him years ago when he was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Each Apostle holds the keys of the kingdom and exercises them at the direction and assignment of the President of the Church. Elder Eyring was assigning missionaries to their fields of labor, and as part of my training, I was invited to observe.
I joined Elder Eyring early one morning in a room where several large computer screens had been prepared for the session. There was also a staff member from the Missionary Department who had been assigned to assist us that day.
First, we knelt together in prayer. I remember Elder Eyring using very sincere words, asking the Lord to bless him to know “perfectly” where the missionaries should be assigned. The word “perfectly” said much about the faith that Elder Eyring exhibited that day.
As the process began, a picture of the missionary to be assigned would come up on one of the computer screens. As each picture appeared, to me it was as if the missionary were in the room with us. Elder Eyring would then greet the missionary with his kind and endearing voice: “Good morning, Elder X or Sister Y. How are you today?”
He told me that in his own mind he liked to think of where the missionaries would conclude their mission. This would aid him to know where they were to be assigned. Elder Eyring would then study the comments from the bishops and stake presidents, medical notes, and other issues relating to each missionary.
He then referred to another screen which displayed areas and missions across the world. Finally, as he was prompted by the Spirit, he would assign the missionary to his or her field of labor.
From others of the Twelve, I learned that this general method was typical each week as Apostles of the Lord assign scores of missionaries to serve throughout the world.
After assigning a few missionaries, Elder Eyring turned to me as he pondered one particular missionary and said, “So, Brother Rasband, where do you think this missionary should go?” I was startled! I quietly suggested to Elder Eyring that I did not know and that I did not know I could know! He looked at me directly and simply said, “Brother Rasband, pay closer attention and you too can know!” With that, I pulled my chair a little closer to Elder Eyring and the computer screen, and I did pay much closer attention!
A couple of other times as the process moved along, Elder Eyring would turn to me and say, “Well, Brother Rasband, where do you feel this missionary should go?” I would name a particular mission, and Elder Eyring would look at me thoughtfully and say, “No, that’s not it!” He would then continue to assign the missionaries where he had felt prompted.
As we were nearing the completion of that assignment meeting, a picture of a certain missionary appeared on the screen. I had the strongest prompting, the strongest of the morning, that the missionary we had before us was to be assigned to Japan. I did not know that Elder Eyring was going to ask me on this one, but amazingly he did. I rather tentatively and humbly said to him, “Japan?” Elder Eyring responded immediately, “Yes, let’s go there.” And up on the computer screen the missions of Japan appeared. I instantly knew that the missionary was to go to the Japan Sapporo Mission.
Elder Eyring did not ask me the exact name of the mission, but he did assign that missionary to the Japan Sapporo Mission.
Privately in my heart I was deeply touched and sincerely grateful to the Lord for allowing me to experience the prompting to know where that missionary should go.
At the end of the meeting Elder Eyring bore his witness to me of the love of the Savior, which He has for each missionary assigned to go out into the world and preach the restored gospel. He said that it is by the great love of the Savior that His servants know where these wonderful young men and women, senior missionaries, and senior couple missionaries are to serve. I had a further witness that morning that every missionary called in this Church, and assigned or reassigned to a particular mission, is called by revelation from the Lord God Almighty through one of these, His servants.
I had occasion to be particularly grateful for this witness, and for the careful training I had received from Elder Eyring, when I was called to the Quorum of the Twelve and soon found myself in the position he had once occupied, working regularly to assign missionaries to their fields of labor. One such experience was especially noteworthy. I had assigned an elder to a mission in Russia, but as we continued moving down the list, I felt increasingly uneasy about it. We had assigned three more missionaries when I finally asked that we return to that elder.
Taking another look at his paperwork, I found nothing in the information from his bishop and stake president that would cause me to reconsider the assignment. Nor was there anything in his health or language history to suggest a change. But then my eye caught the information about his family, and I felt strongly impressed that this elder was to be assigned to teach the gospel in the country of his mother’s ancestry. I made the reassignment and received the comforting assurance of the Spirit that the Lord’s will had been done.
Lead image from mormon.org
In this beautiful book, Elder Ronald A. Rasband shares timely counsel and personal stories about recognizing the hand of the Lord in our everyday pursuits. Through his own experience, Elder Rasband helps us learn first how to seek the Spirit and then how to recognize and respond to divine guidance in our families, with friends and colleagues, in our Church service, and during times of trial.
Each of heartfelt stories, brief messages, and inspiring quotes is an important reminder that the Lord is in the small details of our lives. Elder Rasband demonstrates repeatedly that we are led according to His divine design. Our Father in Heaven is interested in our success and eternal happiness, and He has provided the Holy Ghost to help us choose wisely so we can return to Him one day.