Elder M. Russell Ballard - Priesthood Session, October Conf 2002
What we need now is the greatest generation of missionaries in the history of the Church. We need worthy, qualified, spiritually energized missionaries who, like Helaman's 2,000 stripling warriors, are "exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity" and who are "true at all times in whatsoever thing they [are] entrusted" (Alma 53:20).
Listen to those words, my young brethren: valiant, courage, strength, active, true. We don't need spiritually weak and semicommitted young men. We don't need you to just fill a position; we need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate missionaries who know how to listen to and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. This isn't a time for spiritual weaklings. We cannot send you on a mission to be reactivated, reformed, or to receive a testimony. We just don't have time for that. We need you to be filled with "faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God" (D&C 4:5).
As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I call upon you to begin right now—tonight—to be fully and completely worthy. Resolve and commit to yourselves and to God that from this moment forward you will strive diligently to keep your hearts, hands, and minds pure and unsullied from any kind of moral transgression. Resolve to avoid pornography as you would avoid the most insidious disease, for that is precisely what it is. Resolve to completely abstain from tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs. Resolve to be honest. Resolve to be good citizens and to abide by the laws of the land in which you live. Resolve that from this night forward you will never defile your body or use language that is vulgar and unbecoming to a bearer of the priesthood.
And that is not all we expect of you, my young brethren. We expect you to have an understanding and a solid testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We expect you to work hard. We expect you to be covenant makers and covenant keepers. We expect you to be missionaries to match our glorious message.
Please understand this: the bar that is the standard for missionary service is being raised. The day of the "repent and go" missionary is over. You know what I'm talking about, don't you, my young brothers? Some young men have the mistaken idea that they can be involved in sinful behavior and then repent when they're 18 1/2 so they can go on their mission at 19. While it is true that you can repent of sins, you may or you may not qualify to serve. It is far better to keep yourselves clean and pure and valiant by doing such simple things as:
• Developing a meaningful prayer relationship with your Heavenly Father.
• Keeping the Sabbath day holy.
• Working and putting part of your earnings in a savings account.
• Paying a full and honest tithing.
• Limiting the amount of time spent playing computer games. How many kills you can make in a minute with a computer game will have zero effect on your capacity to be a good missionary.
• Giving the Lord more of your time by studying the scriptures and gaining an understanding of the marvelous message of the Restoration we have for the world.
• Serving others and sharing your testimony with them.
Finally, to those of you who have already served, please remember that you were released from your missions but not from the Church. You spent two years as a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. We expect you to always look and act like one of His disciples. Look the part. Act the part. Don't follow worldly trends and fashions. You are better than that. If you have slipped, then do what is necessary to regain your spiritual balance. The rules for happiness and success after your mission are pretty much the same as they were during your mission: pray hard, work hard, and be obedient. Get busy now and find your eternal companion to enjoy life with. Serve the Lord together, and raise up the next great generation.
President Gordon B. Hinckley - Priesthood Session, Oct Conf 2002, &
First Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 2003:
The time has come when we must raise the standards of those who are called to serve as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world.
We simply cannot permit those who have not qualified themselves as to worthiness to go into the world to speak the glad tidings of the gospel.
We must raise the bar on the worthiness and qualifications of those who go into the world as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Elder Daryl H. Garn - Priesthood Session, April Conf 2003
There are two aspects of raising the standard for missionary service that we would do well to consider. The first is the early preparation of young men and women. In their letter introducing some modifications to the Young Men and Young Women programs, the First Presidency said, "As youth work on these goals, they will develop skills and attributes that will lead them to the temple and prepare them for a lifetime of service to their families and the Lord" (First Presidency letter, 28 Sept. 2001). Listen carefully to their words: "develop skills and attributes." As parents and leaders of youth, we need to help our young people identify these skills and attributes.
The second aspect revolves around personal worthiness, which comes through keeping the commandments of God. Some young men have had the notion that they can break the commandments, confess to their bishops one year before they plan to go on a mission, and then be worthy to serve. The repentance process is far more than planned confession followed by a waiting period. We often hear this question of one who has transgressed: "How long will I have to wait before I can go on my mission?" Keep in mind that repentance is not simply a waiting game. The Savior said: "And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost" (3 Nephi 9:20).
The bar for missionary service has been raised. "Those individuals not able to meet the physical, mental, and emotional demands of full-time missionary work are honorably excused. . . . They may be called to serve in other rewarding capacities" ("Statement on Missionary Work from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles," 11 Dec. 2002). We believe by following the guidelines outlined by the First Presidency, there will be an increase in the number of full-time missionaries who are worthy and prepared to serve.
Bishop H. David Burton - Priesthood Session, April Conf 2003
The term "raising the bar" is often used in the world of sports to describe achieving higher levels of performance. The use of a sports metaphor may help describe why it is critical to respond to what President Hinckley asked us to do last conference when he said: "I hope that our young men, and our young women, will rise to the challenge [Elder Ballard] has set forth. We must raise the bar on the worthiness and qualifications of those who go into the world as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Young men, if you want to be world class and qualified to be participants in the really important events of life like priesthood ordinations, blessings of the temple, and missionary service, you too must develop a disciplined daily routine of honesty, virtue, study, and prayer. And that's the way it is.
My young friends, rules are important, even critical. In life there are also penalties, perhaps even disqualification, if rules are broken. Our participation in life's important events may be jeopardized if we fail to follow the rules contained in our Father in Heaven's commands. Involvement in sexual sin, illegal drugs, civil disobedience, or abuse could keep us on the sidelines at key times. You would do well to view rules as safety restraints, not as chains that bind. Obedience builds strength. And that's the way it is.
Safety and success come when focus is maintained on the important opportunities found by driving the ball straight down the middle—priesthood advancement, temple worthiness, and missionary service. And that's the way it is.